OK, I think I have established that I have a hopeless case of Peter Pan syndrome. Though I look like an adult, pay taxes like an adult and complain about gas prices like an adult, I still maintain a ridiculous level of adolescence. A good portion of my daily routine remains unchanged since the days of so-called "music television." Remember when MTV played music? In MY day OK, complaining about stuff while waxing nostalgic about the good old days is another thing I do like an adult.
I still do many things now I did in my teens, even my pre-teens. I drive around listening to grunge. I dress like a 6-year-old who's allowed to pick out her own clothes. I watch cartoons. I fall off my bike and scrape my knees. I ask my parents for money. There's some things that will be fun no matter how old you are. Others are merely bad habits. And there are just some things about being a kid that never go away, and if you are able to hold on to that inner child, so be it.
One thing I've done since I was about 6 is eat Chef Boyardee for lunch. I can remember lunches as a kid, when you would spend your day playing cars or Barbies or My Pet Monster until your mom brings in your bowl of soup and/or sandwich at noon sharp on a tray. Like room service. Sometimes I got chicken noodles, sometimes grilled cheese, sometimes apples and peanut butter, but the real treat would be when I would get those glorious pasta shapes in that ambiguous tomato-y sauce, piping hot in my Smurf bowl (which I still have, though it's been retired from service).
Chef Boyardee was a special thing for me. I don't know why - perhaps it was the commercials, implying that the Dinosaurs or ABC 123s could be eaten as some sort of game (get all three dinosaurs on your spoon, and you win!), which made the bowl of Chef more exciting than some lame soup. Maybe it was Chef Boyardee himself, a jolly smiling face on the can with his jaunty neckerchief. Maybe it was the variety of shapes, and not knowing which one would be served to me. Changing fads were reflected in the pasta shapes, as Smurfs gave way to Ninja Turtles to Pokemon to Spongebob. Maybe they brainwashed me.
For some reason, the cans of Chef Boyardee remained omnipresent in our pantry long after me and my brother were past Smurf-bowl age. They made a quick snack between school and work. My dad favored the manly raviolis over kiddie-shaped varieties, but occasionally he would dip into my stash when his got low. They never left my lunching rotation. And when I was old enough to buy my own groceries (and young enough to still eat like a hobo), the Chef went into my buggy. As a poor college student choosing between 79-cent lunch options, Chef topped ramen noodles easy.
Chef Boyardee was an immigrant, cooking his way from New York City to Cleveland. He started his high-sodium empire with his first restaurant in Cleveland as the less phonetic Ettore Boiardi, becoming famous for his spaghetti sauce. He was a pioneer of easy home pasta cooking for the whole family. He offered his products as rations for soldiers in World War II. He moved the whole operation to Pennsylvania, where a factory remains (and I WILL tour it someday). He ended up selling the business, using the money to invest in steel mills (oof, I wonder how that turned out). He seemed like a heckuva guy.
It's not the healthiest novelty pasta in the world, but I'm proud to have cans of Chef Boyardee still rolling around in my desk drawer. I get teased about my less-than-sophisticated lunch, but hey, it has a day's serving of vegetables in every can. The man cooked for Woodrow Wilson. He helped win World War II (yes, filling soldiers with spaghetti counts as a win). I'm nothing if not loyal, and Chef Boyardee, I thank you for a lifetime of lunches.