By Blake Stilwell
My roommates have never heard eating noises more odd than on the night I made Spaghetti Tacos. And I’ve made some odd things. The texture of a dry crunch preceded by the wet slurping noises of pasta make for strange platefellows. But these are about something bigger than mere texture. While the idea of Spaghetti Tacos themselves isn’t odd (especially for someone who loves carbs as much as I do), the sensation they inspired far exceeded the simple Mexican-Asian Fusion for laughs the producers probably intended. This is the texture of America’s youth.
I admit, I’ve never really watched iCarly for more than a few seconds as I was flipping through channels, but I’m aware of its appeal. I can get into a lot of things that a 30-year-old shouldn’t enjoy, but iCarly isn’t one of them. I don’t even know which one is Carly. But this was a huge trend. Just Google it. There are thousands of photos, videos, recipes, derivatives and articles about it. Chefs even competed for the title of best Spaghetti Taco. The Spaghetti Taco would reappear on iCarly many, many more times.
I discovered this sensation as I was reading articles about one of my favorite professors from Syracuse University, Robert J. Thompson. I came across an article from The NYTPicker that described all 78 times New York Times journos went to Professor Thompson for a quick and easy quote. I mean, I understand it. He’s the most quotable person in America for a reason. Besides being astute and erudite, he is personable and hilarious. Anyway, NYTPicker was criticizing the Times for being lazy and going to him for any subject they didn’t want to actually work hard to finish well. The straw that broke NYTPicker’s back was apparently Helene Stapinski’s 2010 Article on Spaghetti Tacos. (admittedly, while Thompson is a professor of television and thus relevant to the story, the quote she decided to use was a stretch).
Apparently in 2007, Nickelodeon aired an episode where one of the characters, Spencer, was making dinner and couldn’t decide between tacos or spaghetti. The result was a recurring appearance on the show in many episodes to come and every child in America deciding they needed this delicacy for themselves. While many derivatives exist, the media purist in me decided to go to the source for the original recipe.
The original recipe for this goes:
Get taco shells.
Get spaghetti (with meat sauce).
Get a BIG spoon.
Use the BIG spoon to put spaghetti into taco shells.
I’m normally a soft taco kinda guy. I don’t know much about hard tacos. I mean, they’re okay, but when I was a kid, we were warned about some dangers associated with taco shells. Bravely, I chose Ortega Taco Shells, because Giant was having a sale. My sauce, however was Newman’s Own, because that’s not the kind of thing you want to skimp on. And I will always love Paul Newman.
I think Professor Thompson was being cheeky with that New York Times reporter. I don’t think it’s a sensation because spaghetti is portable. Tacos aren’t really that portable. One bite of a hard shell taco and half the taco disintegrates into the palm of your hand or to the floor. No, the appeal among kids is that spaghetti tacos manage to make eating each part somehow messier than than eating a single plate of either.
CRUNCH. Slurrrrrrrp. The taco falls apart and I struggle to get the spaghetti into my mouth. Not only is my mouth stained red, but now my hands are as well. I can’t imagine what I must look like as I struggle to eat these.
But after a few minutes of struggle that led to the joy of acceptance, I realized the addition of a nice crunch to the spaghetti flavor actually doesn’t make for that bad a texture. I don’t think this revolutionizes the way I eat pasta from this point on, but I definitely came to understand the appeal of the Spaghetti Taco and why kids will ask for it for dinner for more than just one fleeting moment.