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When Pasta Goes Bad

Mr. and Mrs. Rodney Walker of Jackson, Michigan

I was flipping through the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday, Feb. 22, 2002 as I drank my morning coffee when I just happened to catch these faces before I turned the page and continued on. I don't even know what I'm looking at yet. It's some ungodly hour, like 10 am.

Something haunted me though. Even as I slogged through the paper in my half-a-coma just-waking-up state, those two faces stuck with me. The sadness. The pain. With just a hint of anger, perhaps. They had looked like nice enough people. Grandparents, no doubt. Light jackets, casual shirts. Everyday Folk. They stood angled towards each other, the way couples do who have been married Lo, these many years, standing as a united front, being there for each other. I smiled at that. That's what made an impression with me, too. That's how it should be with people, but it's rare sometimes.

Whatever happened had to be serious. Had some fiend kidnapped a grandchild? Had some doctor misdiagnosed a cancer - now grown into an out of control, Geraldo Rivera-like mess? I had to know. I flipped back and found the photo again.

That's when I saw the can of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli.

Oh! I thought. Salmonella? Botulism? Had someone died? Or maybe the Walkers won some Boy-O-Bucks Boyardee contest only to be told by some lawyer that due to some accidentally on purpose, last minute loophole, it turns out that, darn, they didn't win after all? What battle were the Walkers fighting, obviously with every ounce of their being, against yet another faceless Fat Cat American Corporate Machine? Or was this one of the "We opened the can / jar / bottle / package and found a mummified / dead / rotten / fried / pickled piece of rat / mouse / bug / snake/ finger in it!" stories we're all so fond of?


So I read the article. Twice. It seems that Rodney or Karen opened the can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli and found, strategically placed on top, a "large piece of pasta that looked like a male sex organ". (I guess they felt they couldn't say "penis" in the Chicago paper, us being such delicate flowers out here and all).


In spite of my concern I noted, with my usual flair for detail, that the
product was "99% Fat Free" which the Walkers, judging from their
photo, were indeed wise to have chosen as their meal


Hmph, I thought - that's it? The Walkers found a pasta penis in the ravioli and THAT'S why the miserable, long faces and the looks of disgust? What a gyp. What a bunch of sissymerries those people are! How dare they parlay this into an AP-photographed news wire story and tug at my emotions over a pasta penis?

Then I caught myself and thought, now now now ... Don't judge. Perhaps the Walkers are very moral, very religious people. Maybe this was a truly insulting, disturbing thing for them. I wasn't in the position to judge what psychological or ethical factors played into this. Hell, even I could muster up the maturity, if I really forced, to see that this might be truly offensive to someone. People have the right to open a can of ravioli for lunch and not be confronted with some vulgar, inappropriate beef-stuffed penis (though it's my humble opinion that using cheese-filled ravioli for the penis would have been a bit more apropos and creative, but that's just me). So with this renewed outlook I continued reading to the end of the story.

Well. It didn't last long. It seems that Karen Walker took the Phallus O Pasta with her to her exercise class at the Senior Center to show everyone. Mr. Walker said, "I guess everyone thought it was pretty funny".

That was it. That's when I snapped. I had run the gamut of emotions, full circle. When first reading what the whole sordid mess was about, I thought it was pretty damn funny. Then I get guilted into feeling I'm some pervert by those "Oh, grow up" looks coming out of that photo, so I take the good time and trouble to switch into my Mature and Damn Serious Mode only to get dragged down the Proverbial Garden Path by these two because as it turns out, YES it was funny! So why were they standing there like that?

Seems if you were insulted to the core about the contents of your ravioli ("Now with f u n new organ shapes!") you wouldn't wrap The Thing in a piece of Saran, haul it to your senior exercise class and inflict the atrocity on others. Some of whom might have serious heart conditions and who might have dropped dead form the shock. You and I both know that some lawyers would come up with a felony charge of "Waving a Pasta Dick Around With Intent to Cause Grievous Harm" (any lawyers out there? Opinion please?) So instead of being quietly indignant, making a phone call or two and saying, "Marge! You have no idea what we found in a ravioli can today!", "It" had to be brought to public light and paraded around. At an exercise center, no less! Karen knew what she was doing. Oh yes...she knew. Because she thought it was funny, but she wasn't really sure if it was or not, so she had to go get Pasta Penis Popular Opinion.

It all became crystal clear. Why the photo had projected such deep disgust and scorn.

It's because they're Sourpusses. And it was at that instant I knew where my true sympathies lay. I knew who my heart went out to - the person who put the Cock In The Can. I sat there as waves of disappointment washed over me. The Kinship and sadness that I had felt for Rod and Karen now reached out to whomever had taken the time and trouble to craft that piece of Pasta Art, risking his or her job to do so. The danger of sneaking it into a can along the assembly line. The many - God knows how many - long nights lying awake in bed wondering if it had yet been found. Would it ever? Had it already been opened and dumped in some microwave-safe bowl by a harried mom and shoved in front of some complaining 7-year old who didn't want to come in from the back yard to eat and so ate the one Big Piece to make it look like they ate "a lot" , asked to be excused and ran back outside, no one the wiser? Did the Penis Planter daydream that the can would find it's way to some 17-year old girl's sleep over party, to be opened and squealed over comments of "ew icky! and "ohmigod gross!" by Nymphets who all looked like Britney whatshername? Did they worry that the can had been bought by some old lady who, misreading the label as Pork And Beans, thought the Pasta Penis was that slab of white stuff on top no one eats and, without fanfare, tossed it to her dog Mookie? Or would it be opened by someone who'd see it for what it was, and get a great laugh out of it and appreciate that we all just have to cut a little loose sometimes. The torture this poor individual must have been going through all these months! Wondering where that can was! A sort of Penis in a Bottle, cast into the Supermarket Sea.

And it washes up on Sourpuss Shores.
Who apparently reported the Penis to the ConAgra company, who says they will investigate.