Sunday, September 30, 2007

Spaghetti Bits

Saturday we had a stake dry-pack day at our regional cannery. Specifically, those of us who participated got to order food for our food storage, can it ourselves, and take it home (after paying for it, of course). We had to drive a couple of hours to get there, so I made sure to order lots and lots of food to take home.

Apparently some of the other families there had the same idea. And somebody had the brilliant idea of ordering lots and lots of spaghetti for their food storage. I didn't order any myself, but I was one of the fortunate ones assigned to spaghetti duty while the others packed, well, practically everything else.

Now, the Church does in fact offer dry spaghetti as part of the dry pack program. I'm sure that in times of need it would be a lovely thing to be able to draw on for feeding your family. Spaghetti is, of course, a much-beloved meal, and it's easy to make.

But one of the things about dry spaghetti is that it's long. Spaghetti, by definition, is long. And spaghetti, by definition, does not fit in a #10 can.

To make matters worse, the spaghetti that you are supposed to stuff into the cans comes in a really, really big and heavy box. There's a lot of spaghetti in that box. And from that box, you are supposed to fill five #10 cans. That's all. Just five. And you can't cheat and leave some in the box. That would be, well, cheating. The purpose behind this rule is to ensure that everyone purchasing spaghetti receives a full can. But what an ordeal it is to cram that much spaghetti into only five cans!

You have to break the spaghetti to fit it in the can. There's no way around that. Beyond that, you can try standing it on end, or you can lay it down flat. Either way, the noodles will persist in poking up this way and that, leaving all kinds of small air pockets between them.

You can try to leave the spaghetti in fairly long pieces in an attempt to simulate the appearance of actual spaghetti (which this no longer is). Or you can break it into thirds as you pack your can. But sooner or later, you're going to have to crush down what's already in the can, because you just won't be able to fit any more noodles in there if you don't. You hear a none-too-appetizing crunching sound as you do so, but you continue bravely because it's all for the best.

And finally you have to just break the spaghetti into little tiny pieces and cram them into whatever air pockets you can reach. Because at this point, although you've been shaking the cans down and crunching down the contents, there really is no more space left in the cans. At this point, you are no longer canning spaghetti. You are canning what is known as "spaghetti bits." (At least three of us today agreed that this is what they should be called. I can't claim that I coined the term, however.)

Meanwhile, the group behind you is packing dried onions. All they have to do there is pour the stuff into the cans, and they're done. Onions are small, and they settle easily. Next they pack the dried carrots, and then the dried apples. Same story here. Pour into this can, then the next, and the next...and voila! They've finished all their orders, and you're still trying to pack the same five lousy cans of spaghetti.

But at long last, you're finished. You don't know how you did it; it seems like the loaves and fishes story in reverse. (Actually you do have a handful of spaghetti left in your box. You remedy this by putting it in your neighbor's box when he isn't looking.) Then you cram an oxygen packet and a lid onto those five cans and seal them on the machine. It's a tight fit, and you hear more crunching going on, but you remain valiant and you get those lids on.

Then, years later when some unsuspecting individual opens a can labeled "spaghetti," they will not find the gloriously long Italian strands they may be longing for. Instead, they will find...spaghetti bits.

Anyone for spaghetti bits and meatballs? Yum.


Marsha Ward said...

Spachetti bits! How funny. Thanks for the laugh, Katie.

Marcia Mickelson said...

I've been there! Done it! It is no fun to break up that spaghetti. The real sad part is that it doesn't even taste very good. I did about 2 cans a while back, and we've eaten it all by now. But, it's really thick and not very good. Hope yours is better! The nice part about spaghetti bits is that it's the perfect size for little ones.

Janette Rallison said...

I never thought about canning spaghetti . . . one more area I need to work on apparently

Robyn Heirtzler said...

My sister-in-law has become very valiant in canning lately. She's going to the cannery faithfully and an enormous portion of her large basement is filled with food storage. She's going about it the practical way ... She's taking in her own fruit snacks and junk food to can so they have something fabulous while everyone else is living off of cracked wheat and spaghetti bits when emergencies arrive. She's about 30 minutes away by car, but I know I could walk that far for a good dose of junk food should the need arise.

Tamra Norton said...

Funny story! And let's look on the bright side--those with little ones will have less food to cut up! (Well, I tried.)

Katie Parker said...

Marcia and Tami, that's what I'm hoping. My mom used to break our spaghetti before she cooked it...but she didn't break it up that small!

Robyn, I think canning fruit snacks is a great idea. The Church canneries should definitely start offering them. advice would be to not stress over canning spaghetti, unless you like it in small pieces. You might have better luck with macaroni; it's already in little bits.

Marsha, thanks so much. May you never be forced to can spaghetti.