December 15, 2004

And now for something really frivolous

If you grew up when I did, you know, high school and college in the 80's, then you remember Rice a Roni, the San Francisco treat!. Please note, I did not say fondly. You may not remember it fondly. But you may, I suppose. I'm rather neutral on it and kind of don't remember the taste but for an overarching impression of copious amounts of sodium. But the song, the jingle, that is engraved on my memory, slotted just underneath the old Mounds jingle: Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't . . .. That one is a killer.

But I got to wondering, in a pure free association moment yesterday brought on by being awakened by cries from the monitor of "more water, please!" (points given for saying please at 12:30 a.m. and then again at 3:00 a.m.), why is it a San Francisco Treat? Why not a Newark Treat? Or a Santa Fe Treat? You see where I'm going, of course. Well, I just had to know, so I fired up Google this morning and have the answer, straight from the company website: the company was founded there.

In 1912, Maria persuaded Charlie to set up a pasta factory, Gragnano Products, Inc., in the Mission district in San Francisco. The successful business sold 25 and 50-pound boxes of pasta to Italian stores and restaurants in the area. Four of Charlie's sons, Paskey, Vince, Tom and Anthony, worked with him to build the pasta business.

In 1934, the oldest brother, Paskey, proposed a new name for the company based on a newspaper ad for "Golden Grain" smoking Tobacco. The family agreed that Golden Grain was a good name for macaroni and the name "Golden Grain Macaroni Company" was adopted.

A neighbor's Armenian style rice pilaf recipe inspired the original idea for RICE-A-RONI®, a mixture of rice and macaroni. Tom's wife Lois served the dish at a family dinner, and it became a favorite of the DeDomenico families. In 1958, Vince mixed a dry chicken soup mix, made at the plant, with rice and vermicelli to create the San Francisco treat which he named RICE-A-RONI. The unique preparation of the dish, and its wonderful flavor and convenience, made the dish one of America's favorite products. The RICE-A-RONI jingle, The San Francisco Treat® slogan, "Saute and Simmer" and scenic San Francisco became familiar to every household in America in the 60's as the product was introduced through television advertising.

The company offers no apologies for the creation of Noodle Roni, instead seemingly laying blame on an otherwise blameless restaurant in Rome.

A trip to Italy in 1964 inspired Vince to develop Noodle Roni Parmesano based on the classic "Noodles Alfredo" dish served to him at Alfredo's restaurant in Rome.

There should have been at least a recognition that they did their best to kill an important piece of Italian culinary history.

Posted by Random Penseur at December 15, 2004 08:45 AM

OK, I'm picking up sort of a tangent here, but your ad jingle reminiscences reminded me: "plop, plop, fizz, fizz; oh, what a relief it is..."
Remember that one?

Posted by: GrammarQueen at December 15, 2004 10:13 AM

So that's why! I guess my analysis was all wrong then.

Posted by: Jim at December 16, 2004 09:41 AM

We here in SF fondly remember Rice-A-Roni - I'm surprised you didn't realize it was an SF thing. And I enjoyed Jim's analysis.

Posted by: Mark at December 16, 2004 08:30 PM
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