Thursday, April 22, 2010

Phew! It Wasn't A Rat--Just A Big Honkin' Wad of Mold!

Now that I have your attention (and hopefully you haven't thrown up over that title), today's post is all about Chef Boy-ar-dee.  Or rather, Chef Hector Boiardi, an Italian immigrant who began his climb to culinary fame and infamy in New York where he wowed patrons at restaurants including Rector's, Claridges', The Ritz and Plaza.  You know, them there REALLY EXPENSIVE places where you weren't allowed in unless you were white, rich and said, "Oh, rally, Wycliffe, how utterly drollllll" whenever someone said something a-MEW-zing.  Chef Hector eventually moved to Cleveland (Cleveland?  From New York??) where he worked as head chef at The Union Club and Hotel Winton until "his acquirement of his own restaurant at Woodland Avenue and East 9th Street, where demand by patrons for sauce and spaghetti dinners to take home forced the marketing of these products."  The part in quotes is taken directly from an old brochure that I'm about to share with you that seems to have been translated from Serbian.

I got this little booklet along with a pile of other great cookbooklets like "Let's Cook Meat!" and the "Birds Eye Cook Book" (did you know that Birds Eye used to sell meat?  I don't remember it but I'm sure my mother had it in her freezer in the 50's.  I'm going to share this booklet soon as it has some incredible 1940's graphics).  Here's the cover of "Famous Italian Dishes by Chef Hector Boiardi":

You get to read all about Chef Boiardi's history, written in this really weird stilted English (like I said, it reads like it was translated--badly--from another language).  Here's Chef Boiardi receiving a medal, presumably in recognition of the many ways he used his Italian-Style Sauce:
The Table of Contents lists all the ways you can use his products.  How about "Baked Bean Sandwiches"?  Just mash up a can of baked beans, scoop some on a slice of bread and spread with sauce.  Even better, throw some butter in a pan and grill up that Baked Bean Sammie.  Yummo!  Or this sounds good: "Corn & Salmon Loaf".  Gag.  He has something called "German Pancakes" that involves eggs, scalded milk, white bread, and a 7-oz. "tin" of Italian-Style sauce.  What's German about THAT?

When Chef Boiardi decided to share his products with the world he opened a great big factory in Milton, Pennslvania in 1928.  I'm certain that for many years Milton was famous for being "The Town That Smells Like Spaghetti Sauce!"

The company wanted to name the products after the chef who had invented them but they were concerned that people would mispronounce his name.  So they spelled it out--Boy-Ar-Dee and we all pronounced it Boy-R-DEE just like the kids sang it in that old song: "We're  having Beef-a-ROW-nee.  It's made with maca-ROW-nee.  Beefaroni's really neat, Beefaroni's fun to eat, Beefaroni's full of meat--HOORAY!  WHEE! For Chef Boy-AR-dee!"  Except that the chef pronounced his name Boy-ARR-dee.  (Note: I pulled that whole jingle out of my head in ONE try.  I'm not kidding, I'm getting worried about myself . . .).  Here's a commercial from 1953, obviously made before they told him he was mispronouncing his own name:

The new factory appears to have been a thing of beauty:

The caption under the picture, lower left, reads:
"A typical scene during the tomato season, farmers delivering tons of tomatoes grown under our own supervision in beautiful Susquehanna Valley near the Susquehanna Trail."
I wonder if ConAgra, who has owned the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee name since 2000, gets their tomatoes from local farmers?  Yeah, RIGHT! HAH! 
Actually, the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee company was taken over by a food company in the 1940's--it had grown so big so fast that they needed to turn operations over to a company better suited to mass production.  I guess so--Chef Boy-Ar-Dee products were fed to our fighting troops during WWII.  No wonder you hear stories about how bad the Army food was!

In case you hadn't heard, when ConAgra examined the alleged "rat" in the can of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee product, they determined that it was NOT a rat but, instead, merely a big blob of mold.

Now, doesn't that make you feel sooooo much better?  LET'S EAT!!!


  1. How Very informative AND "Very Appetizing". I think nothing sounds less appetizing than having to actually describe your sauce as appetizing. What a relief it was JUST a big glob of mold! Why, you could make mold n; mushroom sauce, now that sounds appetizing! Blarg.

  2. I so love these stories about Chef Boy ARR Dee. This "famed" chef is responsible for flaccid pasta and tasteless sauce. What a legacy!

    I ate Beef A Roni for years and years as a kid. I bought a can not too long ago, and either the formula has changed, or I have. That stuff sucked!!!

    Congratulations on remembering the entire jingle. I'm off to get my Maypo.

  3. I must be weird (was there any question?) because I love Chef Boy ar Dee in a box. When I was a kid we'd drive down to our cabin after my Dad got off work, and my Grandma would always make this, cuz it was late. I crave it now, but it's not the same. The stuff in the can, that's a different story. Zootsuitmama

  4. *blorf* that stuff tasted bad when I was a kid! Seems like all my friends' Moms cooked it though, and when I used to spend the night at these friends' homes, this is what we had *ick* Or Spaghetti-O's which were cut from the same gross noodle lol...

  5. Hmmm...the rat may have been better. LOL! Loved "the chef" growing up. It was my favorite dinner!

  6. I have always found the smell of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Ravioli revolting. Now, the thought of a rat or mold, I don't think I'll allow a can to sit on my shelf!


    Beans on toast is a regular for breakfast in Australia. Don't have beans, dump a can of Spaghetti-o's on the toast instead.

  7. I positively adore reading about food history - be it that of a wildly sophisticated dish/ingredient, or an every day run-of-the-mill pantry classic like Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee. I really did not know very much about this brand before your post, and enjoyed learning more about the colourful past of this pasta in a can :)

    Wishing you a marvelous Friday & weekend ahead, sweet dear!
    ♥ Jessica

  8. I just found the same cookbook in my mom's drawer. She is of the same era as your parents... i wasn't born until '68 though, when she was 41. I think you would love the suff in our cellar!