Tensions rose today in the canned pasta community as celebrity Chef Bernoulli Boyardee filed a lawsuit against his former neighbor and business rival Cuisinier Oda “Spaghetti-Os” Oppenheimer alleging that Spaghetti-Os is purposefully stealing customers. According to the suit filed this morning, Boyardee claims that SpaghettiOs took their cheesy tomato sauce recipe and is subliminally gearing their marketing toward adults.
“Pasta with shapes is for kids,” said the pasta magnate. “Oda knows that. She knows adults are off-limits. They want disgusting and healthy pasta with the asparagus and white sauce. Is he going to start putting asparagus in cans?”
“Adults are buying the food for their children,” said Oppenheimer. “Adults want to ensure that their children are not eating junk food. So we added calcium to one of our recipes. In order to do that, yes, we added cheese.”
When asked about the part of the lawsuit concerning the theft of the cheesy tomato recipe, Boyardee’s indignation increased. “We put calcium in our sauce first,” he said. “Then the SpaghettiOs, they suddenly have calcium in them. We added 30% more cheddar sauce and what do you know, the SpaghettiOs have 33%. It is an outrage.”
Created in 1929 by Ettore Boiardi, an Italian Chef, the Chef Boyardee brand was created as a low-cost means for distributing family-friendly food during the Great Depression. Boiardi sold the company to American Home Foods (which later became International Home Foods) where very, very distant cousin twice-removed Bernoulli Boyardee took over as the spokesman and head chef for the pasta.
Chef Ettore Boiardi
“It was my distant relative’s dream to see these cans in the home of every American family,” said Boyardee. “I was determined to make that dream a reality.”
Boyardee spent years developing what he calls the perfect recipe for tomato sauce. “Hours and hours in the kitchen tasting and tasting. Enough mushrooms, enough cheese. It is an art. And then that rat fink, SpaghettiOda stole it from me.”
SpaghettiOs were created in 1965 by Campbell’s marketing research director, Donald Goerke, nicknamed the “Daddy-O of SpaghettiOs” for his role in creating an easily canned, “spoonable” pasta for use during World War II. Once Goerke was promoted within Campbell’s, the task fell to the Campbell’s mail girl, Oda Oppenheimer, to continue developing tasty and healthy recipes that would appeal to children.
SpaghettiOs mascot, the Spaghetti O.
“I was actually the executive mailroom attendant,” Oppenheimer would like readers to know. “And we were primarily interested in making sure that children wouldn’t make a mess, but still have all the fun of eating pasta.”
The two met during a canned food convention, Canning Con, where they became fast friends. Together, they developed ideas for pasta with more dynamic shapes like beanstalks, Roman gods, and scissors. The pair was quickly removed from Canning Con for their unorthodox ideas but continued to collaborate on recipes for years.
Rare photo of the former friends
“Together, we experimented with sauces, shapes, and flavors, searching for the perfect recipe that would keep kids coming back for more,” said Oppenheimer. “Turns out, the secret ingredient? Cheese. Kids love cheese. Once Bernoulli and I added cheese to our tomato sauce, our sales went through the roof.”
“Cheesy sauce was all my idea,” claimed Boyardee. “She has as much claim to that idea as I do to tomato sauce. Although my family created what could be described as tomato sauce back in the days of ancient Rome.”
During the 1960s, as SpaghettiOs and Chef Boyardee grew in popularity, Boyardee and SpaghettiOs continued a friendly rivalry, Oppenheimer assured.
“When I started making commercials for the television, Bernoulli would call and thank me. I told him he should start doing them, too. Television was the new thing. But he is a traditionalist when it comes to that, and he preferred the radio.”
She added: “I think our first bit of turmoil was when I found singer and radio star Jimmie Rodgers to sing us the ‘Uh-Oh, SpaghettiOs’ jingle. Bernoulli did not like that, I imagine.”
In the 1970s, Boyardee began varying flavors, memorably adding ground beef chunks to the macaroni products, creating a simple type of pasta bolognese and coining it “Beefaroni.” It was a huge success. Chef Boyardee became the most popular canned food among children ages 2-8 with SpaghettiOs dropping to second.
“We never sought to change the recipe,” said Oppenheimer. “Sales were holding steady and the children and parents that liked our product continued liking our product. What need was there to change it?”
Boyardee’s business boom was short-lived, however, once Hamburger Helper arrived on store shelves as a more tasty alternative to canned pasta.
“That silly glove,” Boyardee said. “What does a glove know about fine Italian food? Nothing.”
Boyardee increased the number of familiar Italian pasta products in their catalog, including Ravioli, sauces, and pizza starter kits, but nothing seemed to bring the company up from under the shadow of Hamburger Helper.
Oppenheimer, however, was not worried.
“There was room for all of us, I think. Bernoulli could never see that. Always so competitive. That is why he seeks to sue me. He thinks that only he knows what is best.”
“Oda always thought I was too competitive. I love her as I love my own sister, but truly, she was always afraid of change,” Boyardee said. “She claimed that it was unnecessary to change the recipe. So can you see why she adds cheese to the recipe after all this time, right after I add cheese to mine, that I am a bit skeptical?”
Hearings for the case begin October 32nd.