Thursday, May 16, 2019

Today in history: Jack Kerouac and canned spaghetti

1947 ad for Derby canned spaghetti

On this date -- May 16 -- in 1965 the Campbell Soup Company introduced SpaghettiOs under its Franco-American brand. What's the Kerouac connection? Jack was no stranger to canned spaghetti. In On The Road he talks about buying "cans of cooked spaghetti and meatballs" (Penguin, 1976, p. 96 -- part of the story of the Mexican girl). Jack doesn't give a brand name, and he certainly didn't buy Franco-American SpaghettiOs (since it was 1947 and they didn't appear until 1965). It could have been Derby, since they made canned spaghetti in 1947 as the above ad shows. I'm not sure if they made it with meatballs, though.

Vintage SpaghettiOs ad

Jack was alive when SpaghettiOs debuted, so he may well have tried the "neat new spaghetti you can eat with a spoon." Personally, I've been eating canned pasta since I was a kid. Franco-American isn't my favorite -- Chef Boyardee is my go-to for canned comfort food. By the way, in stores now you can find Chef Boyardee "original recipe" and relive your childhood.

I wasn't able to confirm that Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti and meatballs existed in 1947, but the company was found in 1938 so it's possible that Jack was referring to my favorite comfort food in On The Road. For that matter, he could have been eating Franco-American, since that company was bought by Campbell in 1915 and they made canned spaghetti (traditional style, not Os). Given the name, it would be no surprise if our favorite French-Canadian author chose Franco-American over Chef Boyardee. I can forgive him for that. Anyone who likes canned spaghetti -- of any brand -- is okay in my book.

No comments: