January 4 is National Spaghetti Day, and I couldn’t be happier. I mean, who doesn’t love spaghetti? It’s one of those foods that is universally adored by people of all ages, which explains the fact that 1.4 million pounds of spaghetti are sold in the U.S. alone every year.
That’s a lotta pasta.
Italian for little cords, thin rope or twine, spaghetti originated in Italy (duh) and harks back to the 12th century. It first appeared in the United States around the end of the 19th century, and exploded in popularity soon after. Traditionally, spaghetti was cooked al dente and served with a tomato sauce containing ingredients like cloves, bay leaves, and garlic. Oregano and basil came later. Meatballs and sausage, later still. Maple syrup has never caught on, though (sorry, Buddy the Elf).
Franco-American introduced a canned product called Spaghetti-Os in 1965, delighting children but signaling the end of western civilization as we knew it.
I was thrilled that today’s food challenge involved a main course, our first one this year. Unfortunately, we have plans to travel to Seattle this evening, so the opportunity to cook a batch of homemade spaghetti (one of my signature dishes, as a matter of fact) was lost. Timing plays such a key role in this challenge, but it’s something we’ve just got to contend with – working around our real-life schedules is part of the fun. Tara and I had planned on meeting at The Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch, but work demands got in the way, so I spent a good portion of this morning trying to figure out a backup plan to the backup plan. And then inspiration struck: I would have fun with it. My definition of “fun”? Taste testing a bunch of those canned spaghetti products I detest so much (see “end of western civilization” above). Maybe my finicky taste buds were just being too damn high-falutin’. There could be a hidden treasure preserved (that being the key word) in an aluminum can, unbeknownst to me since it had been a good twenty years or longer since I last indulged. There was only one way to find out!
A quick stop at Safeway on my lunch yielded 3 varieties to heat-and-eat: Spaghetti Os with Meatballs, Spaghetti Os with Sliced Franks, and Chef Boyardee Spaghetti & Meatballs.
I got home, zapped ’em all in the microwave, and dug in. The verdict? They were all pretty awful. The Spaghetti Os with meatballs were the worst. Those little marble-sized meat nuggets had no flavor, while the sauce was cloying and chemical-y. The Sliced Franks were only slightly better – at least the hot dogs had more of a “bite” to them. The Chef Boyardee was the best overall, but in a field with these contenders, that ain’t saying much. The meatballs were actually decent (and twice the size of the Spaghetti Os), and the pasta was real spaghetti. The sauce was thicker, too – but still nothing to write home about. I liberally sprinkled some grated parmesan over each sample, and the sharp, pungent bite helped matters only slightly. I only managed a few bites of each before giving up, and felt a bit queasy after.
This much can be said: lunch met my expectations. At least now I know I’m not missing out on anything good.
EDIT: Who am I kidding? This wasn’t real spaghetti. Plus I’m starving, and Tara didn’t partake. We’re going to the Spaghetti Factory for a quick dinner before hitting the road. The things we do for the sake of authenticity…
Well, if today’s Facebook post is any indication, there’s no way we’re getting away with using a Hostess pie for National Cherry Pie day. Within moments of sharing today’s post, there was dissension among the troops. Calls for a do-over, a threat to kick our butts, and accusations of offending the Italian American community rang loud and clear.
And little ol’ me was slaving away at work and didn’t even know I had been excluded from today’s challenge! Actually, I’m entirely grateful for that because it only took a few texts to decide on hitting The Old Spaghetti Factory before we left for Seattle.
We’re the first ones to support local small businesses, and with the exception of last night’s dinner at Red Robin, we seldom visit chain restaurants. Tonight I was pleasantly surprised with our dining choice and will definitely be back for more. It’s late on a Friday night, I just drove three hours to Seattle, so I’ll keep this short.
A friend of Mark’s suggested their Garlic Mizithra. As soon as he saw there was bacon in it, he was all in. We like to share our dishes, so I quickly scanned the menu for a different spaghetti dish, but didn’t get very far when I saw they had crab stuffed ravioli. Y’all have no idea how much I LOVE crab stuffed ravioli. I’d had a late lunch and wasn’t even hungry, but I still cleaned my plate.
Back to the spaghetti. It was awesome. Nutty browned butter, sharp and tangy cheese, earthy mushrooms. And BACON. I snuck in my requisite bite, but when I went back for more Mark had his arm protectively around the bowl and almost snarled at me! Okay…not really. The canned spaghetti left him starving and he had his bowl emptied in no time. Success!