“I did not get my SpaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”
- Last words of a 1995 Death Row inmate.
Isn’t it funny how food can serve so aptly as a time machine? The mere mention of some items can miraculously transport us right back to the kitchen table of our youth. Such is the power of SpaghettiOs, those tiny rings of pasta packed in a strangely-sweet orange sauce. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that they have left an indelible mark on our memory with that brain-adhesive catch phrase/jingle “Uh, oh, SpaghettiOs!” Perhaps that’s why, even in adulthood, when we know we should never eat such things, some of us are still compelled to grab a can of the stuff on occasion and toss it into the shopping cart when nobody is looking. Powerful stuff.
In 1965, the year of Cool Whip, Pampers and the Pillsbury Doughboy, the first can of SpaghettiOs was sold by Franco-American, a subsidiary of Campbell’s Foods. They were the brainchild of Donald Goerke (recognized now as the “Daddy-O of SpaghettiOs”), a mixture of kid-friendly pasta loops and a tomato-cheese sauce. They were quick and easy to make for those needing to prepare meals with ease – even a kid with few culinary skills. “The neat round spaghetti you can eat with a spoon” caught on quickly with children and adults alike, becoming one of the biggest-selling items for Campbell’s.
Over the years, the product line for SpaghettiOs has grown to include versions with meatballs, small franks (sliced-up hot dogs), as well as a wide variety of kid-culture shapes, from Saturday-morning cartoons to the latest and greatest movie characters. Packed with full servings of both vegetables (think tomato sauce) and grains (think noodles), it also packs a big punch with over a third of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. Not that it’s enough to deter true fans of SpaghettiOs (and those haunted later in life by “must-have” cravings). For over three decades, when the reminiscent need kicks in, kids, moms and daddy-Os everywhere have simply recited the magic words to themselves, “Uh oh, SpaghettiOs!” and popped open a can.
Odds are that you have probably shoveled down a few cans of SpaghettiOs in your day. Do you still crave them, and have you actually given into that craving? Share your memories and thoughts with all of us at Retroland in our comments section, as we let out a collective nostalgic sigh for SpaghettiOs.