If watching season 3 of Orange is the New Black made you hungry for some creatively-prepared Ramen noodles, you’re in luck: Clifton Collins Jr. and Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez’s new book Prison Ramen, which features a foreword by Samuel L. Jackson and recipes from people like formerly incarcerated actor Danny Trejo, unlocks the culinary possibilities of those thrifty, shapeshifting noodles.
Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories From Behind Bars is out Nov. 3, but to tide you over, EW exclusively presents Jackson’s foreword and Trejo’s “Machete Ramen” recipe below.
FOREWORD by Samuel L. Jackson
Hunger! Quite possibly the first thing we feel entering this thing called life. A breast or a bottle quells it in the beginning, but it always returns, nagging, nagging, nagging, throughout our existence. Some of us have been fortunate enough to beat it back on the regular, others not so much. I’ve been on both sides of that pronouncement. As a kid, I was well fed by my Southern grandparents, aunts, and neighbors. In the summers, I was on a farm where all I could eat was right at hand. I could pick apples, pears, corn, berries, or anything that grew within my reach. It wasn’t until I left home in pursuit of my future that I met real hunger, the hunger that won’t let you sleep, study, or think about anything but hunger. Being broke makes you hungrier; it also makes you inventive and creative. Trix with water or Kool-Aid can be tasty. A stolen loaf of bread with mayo, scrumptious! Sardines and crackers, a righteous feast! But nothing prepared me for the inexpensive, filling, soul-refreshing discovery of Ramen and the wonders and complete joy it would bring at my lowest and hungriest times of need. These recipes make me smile and laugh out loud with joy, memory, and awe at their total culinary genius. All born from a bond of pure hunger!
BREAKING BREAD by Danny Trejo
My fondest memories—if you can call them that—of being incarcerated were the weekends. We’d get a bunch of guys together and lay out a spread. Just breaking bread with friends. We’d get whatever we could scrape up—Ramen, chili, popcorn, even hard-boiled eggs. It was like a potluck or picnic, but prison style.
The weekend spreads helped soothe the disappointment of not getting a visit. No matter how tough you look, when it’s visiting day and you know you’re not getting one, it’s hard. You think about all the people who would have visited you if you weren’t a three-time loser. Back when I was in juvenile hall, my mom, dad, sister, brother, and everybody would come visit me. When I hit Youth Authority, visits got thinner. In the pen, my mom was the only one who wrote to me.
The weekend spreads helped me think That’s not important, this is important. My friends, my camaradas, were important to me. I knew my family wasn’t going to visit, but I’d have a family feeling with my homeboys.
Danny Trejo. Before he became known for playing the anti-hero in dozens of movies and TV series, Danny Trejo was a drug counselor, often helping teenage kids. His first acting role came when he was called to a movie set to help a kid who had an addiction issue. He helped the kid and was cast in the film. Trejo has said, “Everything good that has ever happened to me has been a direct result of helping someone else.”
2 packs chili flavor Ramen
11⁄2 cups boiling water
About 1 cup chopped cooked pork sausage (9 ounces)
1 small bag (2 ounces) Doritos (any flavor)
2 bags (4 ounces each) corn nuts (any flavor)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1⁄2 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3 jalapeño chiles, chopped
2 tablespoons squeezable cheese
1. Crush the Ramen in the wrappers and empty into a bowl. Set aside the seasoning packets.
2. Add the water, cover, and let sit for 8 minutes.
3. Drain off excess water.
4. Add the seasoning, sausage, Doritos, Tabasco to taste, corn nuts, mayonnaise, onion, tomato, and jalapeños. Mix well.
5. Add the cheese and mix again.