How did a prison riot and ramen noodles inspire the most interesting cookbook of the year?
A pair of kids grow up as best friends together, but their lives take divergent paths.
One leads Clifton Collins Jr. to Hollywood as a famed character actor in hit movies including Star Trek, Pacific Rim and the Oscar-winning Traffic.
But Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez follows a path that leads to prison, where he spends six years behind bars on weapons charges.
And it's only a miracle made of ramen noodles that saves his life and reunites him with childhood friend Collins, when a blazing prison riot breaks out at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California, in 2009.
Alvarez now lives in Mexico as a free man. He said he and his fellow Mexican inmates were under siege from a rival black prison gang who were trying to break into their cellblock to kill them. But an older inmate who specialized in making gourmet ramen from prison food scraps had an idea.
"We started feeding them," said Alvarez. "We made a spread in a trash bag. We filled up bowls in cups and feeding them through the window."
It was like extending an olive branch -- and the murderous gang, grateful for the food, retreated.
"It brought inmates comfort and an understanding of, to say, you know, it's not about brown and black. We're human," said Alvarez.
The remarkable experience inspired Alvarez to think about writing a book.
"That idea, 'prison ramen,' dawned on me," said Alvarez. "Wow, these stories need to come out, people need to hear about this."
And it actually became a possibility when he got a surprise visit from his old childhood pal, Clifton Collins Jr., three weeks after the riot.
Then, when Alvarez was released from prison, he and Collins made the quirky book a reality, getting together to co-write Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars.
The book consists of 65 recipes for makeshift ramen meals, some of the recipes coming from Collins's Hollywood pals who have spent time in the slammer, among them Guns & Roses guitarist Slash, who offers up "Slash's Jaywalking Ramen" in memory of the couple of days he spent in jail for an unpaid jaywalking ticket.
Then there's "Shia LaBeouf's Egg Ramen Salad Sandwich," inspired by LaBeouf's stint behind bars for causing a disturbance in the middle of a Broadway play. And there's "Danny Trejo's Ramen Quesadilla," in memory of the 11 years the movie tough guy spent in California prisons for drug-related crimes. Plus, there's a foreword written by actor Samuel L. Jackson.
Obviously, the recipes are easier to cook up in your kitchen than they are in prison.