Sunday, April 27, 2008

Justa lika my mama useda make

I had a spaghetti dinner at macaroni grill the other night. I was amazed. It tasted exactly like the spaghetti I grew up with. The spaghetti at our house was not exactly an old family recipe. It was not what you ran home for in Little Italy after a game of stickball. No, the spaghetti I ate, and loved, was from a box purchased from the local A&P and  produced by Chef Boyardee (Franco-American). My mother would bring home the box and open it up, pull out the meat sauce which had to be opened with a can opener and mix it with a pound of ground chuck that she had just purchased for the occasion from that same A&P and our favorite family butcher “Red”. My father never could remember Red’s last name and often had to ask the bag boy, our neighbor Randy Woodum what the name was. It was Smith.


At any rate, the box you bought came with the aforementioned meat sauce, a bunch of spaghetti and a little tin of parmesan cheese that you had to open with the can opener size of the bottle opener. The kind you used to have to open a can of beer with before the amazing invention of the pop top can.  I imagine that this spaghetti was probably the blandest stuff ever put on God’s green earth and the fact that Chef Boyardee was French and not Italian should have told us something about the product, but my brother Clay and I could never get enough of it. We both especially liked the Parmesan which looked like yellow grated sand. For years I did not know that “Parmesan” was “Parmesan cheese” I thought that it was just some saw dust like material that tasted great on Spaghetti. I don’t know when I stopped eating the stuff. I recall still buying it after my marriage in the 1970s. The, somewhere along the line, we started buying fancy sauces and all different kinds of pasta. I lost track of Chef Boyardee and his wonderful concoction.


I was amazed the other night at how the Macaroni Grill spaghetti brought back my old feelings about that dish. I looked at every store I could imagine and have been unable to find a box of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti. I assumed that it had been replaced by the plastic microwavable packages of spaghetti that the Chef (now the late Chef) sells in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. But finally today, I have found a site that sells “nostalgia food”. One of the items they sell is something that looks very much like the old Spaghetti kits of my childhood. It is called Chef Boyaredee Spaghetti and Meatball Kit. The same kind of box, although no longer blue. The same picture of Boyardee. It now claims to have “meat balls” in the sauce, which I am dubious of, but there is no reason that I could not fry up a pound of ground chuck, just like Mama used to. The box says that it has cheese. I bet that they no longer have the Parmesan in a little can. It is probably in a reseal able plastic bag by now, and that’s a pity, but time changes all things.


At any rate, I can order this stuff from Amazon for $17.97 and get six boxes. Sounds good to me. I will order some and let you know if the Chef has still “got it” .


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