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Jul 24, 2013 12:40 PM

1946 Alcatraz Prison menu

Inside Scoop photo'ed a copy and put on the sfgate website. Fun little read!

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  1. Reads like the notorious were dining better than the average American citizen in 1946!

    1 Reply
    1. re: RedTop

      Hate to break this to you if it's news, but many "average American citizens in 1946" ate better than they do *now* -- that's the real comparison.

      In 1946 if you needed ground beef, you ground it in your home crank grinder (I just sold three of those that had been in my family), or your butcher ground it to order. Ground beef was fresher, tasted better, didn't sit around for days wrapped in plastic (after bulk transport with components of hundreds of animals from several countries).

      Many foods hadn't yet become dumbed- or numbed-down. People hadn't yet contrived today's notion that ketchup is something made always from tomatoes, commercially, syrupy-sweet (ketchups were still understood as conserves, made easily at home, from walnuts or mushrooms or lobster, or tomatoes -- without sugar). Vegetable and seafood salads were accompanied by Russian dressing (the fad for thinning it down to flavorlessness and dubbing the result "thousand island" was just starting to surface in cookbooks in the late 1940s). Restaurateurs hadn't yet started adding cream to fettucine al' Alfredo (prompting derived terms today like "Alfredo sauce," something unknown in Italy, or to Alfredo di Lellio himself).

      Commercial processed food makers hadn't yet learned that consumer preference would reward them for insinuating sugars into everything from bread to mayonnaise to "French" salad dressing (which still then meant what it has mostly meant in US cookbook history: a vinaigrette, unsweetened).

      The US actually saw some of it best and worst cookbooks right at that time. Two trends coincided: longtime traditions like quality fresh seasonal ingredients, learning to cook from skilled parents preserving family recipes, and rich immigrant and native repertoires, were being slowly forgotten. Convenience foods, shortcut cooking (foundation: Campbell's condensed canned soups-- the "TV Dinner" would follow soon), hokey ingredients like food coloring, "polyunsaturated" trans-fat artificial shortenings, and canned preground flavorless "Parmesan cheese," were ascendant.

      A lot of the pundit-heralded rediscovery of US good food sensibilities over the last couple of decades has consisted of throwing off habits learned only in the preceding few decades, and often called innovations at the time.

    2. Somewhere on-line I once found a site that listed the final meal requests of death row inmates, I think in Texas. Some interesting and a lot of fried chicken.

      4 Replies
      1. re: chocolatetartguy

        Ever started shopping in a market moments after deep fried chicken was burned?

        1. re: RedTop

          You are one sick dude. :)

          That menu kind of looks like what you might see at Tadich or Musso & Franks.

        2. re: chocolatetartguy

          When I was at Mother Jones we featured a photo series on this topic...

          1. re: emraguso

            Some seriously odd choices there (8 liters of soda and 8 fruits????). But at least none of them really broke the bank.

        3. IIRC from my decades-ago Alcatraz tour, they overfed the prisoners on purpose: they wanted them too fat and out of shape to swim away.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I remember that as well. The warden figured if the inmates were well-fed there would be less complaining, less trouble. The only other thing I remember from that tour was you had to eat everything you put on your tray.

          2. At first glance it looks like the midday meal--supper, a.k.a., lunch--was the largest meal of the day. The evening meal--dinner--has less meat and/or lighter-sounding entrees. From the way my parents & grandparents talked, I suspect making lunch/supper the big meal of the day was more common 50 or 100 years ago; less so today.

            1. Robust fare with not a lot of processed shit! Better than the average joe in 2013.