Meals are perhaps the most important aspect of prison life. They keep inmates alive, both physically and emotionally, as mess halls and common areas provide a level of social interaction in an otherwise lonely situation. Albert “Prodigy” Johnson served three and a half years in prison, and during that time his focus was on his health—an almost impossible feat behind bars, where many inmates often enter the prison system healthy, but leave with diabetes and hypertension. Commissary Kitchen provides a deeper perspective of what it’s like to consume meals in prison. While recipes are provided, Prodigy and co-writer Kathy Iandoli also tell various anecdotes about situations in prison involving food. Meal prep in prison is very limited, so while this work appeals to anyone who has served time or is curious about prison life, it also speaks to those who prepare food with limited access to various cooking luxuries (such as college students in dorms). While the work is informational, above all it humanizes the prison experience in a way that has never been done before.
Albert “Prodigy” Johnson is a multi-platinum recording artist and member of the legendary hip-hop duo Mobb Deep. In 2006, Prodigy was arrested for gun possession and served a three-year prison term. In 2011, he released his first memoir, the critically-acclaimed My Infamous Life. Since then, Prodigy has continued to release both solo projects and albums through Mobb Deep, touring worldwide. When he isn’t touring, Prodigy is traveling the United States, lecturing at venues like MIT about the prison system and offering insight on changing the quality of inmates’ lives.
Kathy Iandoli is a critically-acclaimed journalist and author. Her work has appeared in publications such as Pitchfork, VICE, Maxim, Cosmopolitan, the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and many others.