Cooking in Prison

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Genis eating sushi in prison during a visit with his wife

From roasted seagull breast to clandestine pesto, this week on the show we learn about the creative cooking that goes on in American prisons.

Daniel Genis spent ten years behind bars in New York following an armed robbery conviction. A recent New Yorker profile explored Genis’ upbringing in Washington Heights amidst hard-partying Soviet literati and the apologetic stickups he did for drug money in the early aughts that led the New York Post to dub him “the Sorry Bandit”.

But when Good Food host Evan Kleiman called Genis, now a writer living in Brooklyn, it was to talk food. Genis wrote about the subject last month for the Daily Beast, and we at the radio station were intrigued to hear more.

Genis told us that cooking opportunities vary depending on the security level of one’s prison. His last facility (he stayed in twelve) was known as “a cooking prison,” and it featured stoves with pots and pans. (Guards removed the handles so they wouldn’t be sharpened into weapons).

At medium-security facilities, inmates had access to microwaves. Elsewhere, they constructed dangerous heating devices out of tin cans and wires.