Pennsylvania Jail Offers Prison Food to Tourists

For one weekend only, Eastern State Penitentiary will serve samples of prison food throughout the years
Staff Writer
Prison Serves Food to Tourists | Events

Eastern State Penitentiary

Looks like one Philadelphia prison is taking cues from Japan’s prison food cafeteria; the AP reports that Eastern State Penitentiary will be serving a sample of prison food from the 1830s, 1940s, and today to visitors.

The tasting menu, available at the defunct prison that Al Capone used to call home, will be served June 8 and 9 to folks who visit the now-empty prison, which was abandoned in 1971.Nowadays, it’s open as a museum of sorts of tourists hoping to see what prison life is like.

On the menu? Broiled salted beef with "Indian mush" (a polenta of sorts topped with molasses) from the 1830s; hamburger with brown gravy and beets from 1949; Nutraloaf, a bland concoction of rice, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, oatmeal, chickpeas, and margarine. The Nutraloaf, AP notes, is often served as punishment to prisoners (some of whom have filed lawsuits over it, calling it cruel and unusual punishment).

Of course, not every prisoner gets served Nutraloaf; a sample meal from Graterford prison, AP reports, includes waffles, pork barbecue, poultry, and gravy, plus vegetarian options. But Sean Kelley, Eastern State Penitentiary’s director of public programming, hopes that this tasting menu will open discussion about the perception and treatment of inmates over the years, including how food service has changed.

"We hope to have a discussion all weekend long about what these policies mean to accomplish and whether they're effective," Kelley told AP. Tickets are available online for $14 — not bad. But then again, you are paying to eat like a prisoner.

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