When I saw that it was National Spaghetti Day I took a sigh of relief knowing that this would be an easy one. Spaghetti is pretty simple to celebrate and naturally we have a box of spaghetti in our pantry just like everyone reading this probably does too. I think that’s why spaghetti is so popular – because it’s so easy to make. Sure you can get as fancy as you want with it and make homemade sauces and truffle oils to make it special, but for anyone that’s ever lived on a college budget, dropping some spaghetti in a pot of boiling water and plopping on some sauce is a pretty easy and low cost dinner. Still, spaghetti is a treat and whenever it lands on the dinner table, you are pretty excited. At least I am.
To celebrate today, I thought it would be interesting to recreate one of my first culinary creations: the spaghetti sandwich. Growing up, we would have our family spaghetti dinners which involved a giant bowl of spaghetti along with some jarred Ragu sauce on top (don’t tell my Italian friends that we used jarred sauce). There was usually a salad served on the side and also some sliced white bread on the table to help you sop up all the excess sauce. Sometimes it would be fresh Italian bread sliced into little chunks but most of the time it was plain old Pepperidge Farm white bread (the bread of my youth). At some point midway through the dinner, I would take a piece of bread, generously slather some butter on it, then load it up with spaghetti and fold it taco-style to create my sandwich. I loved it. It was everything I wanted in each bite. If there was leftover spaghetti, I would have it the next day (reheated on the stovetop) and I would again make another sandwich. I don’t think my Mom would ever let me make an actual sandwich with two pieces of bread, but I would just make it on my own and enjoy my little creation.
I thought it would be fitting to recreate that sandwich today, but maybe give it a 2017 update. I’ve been making some pretty good burritos lately so I decided that a spaghetti burrito would be a nice tribute. It would have all the ingredients from the original spaghetti sandwich, but it would be an improved delivery system as the tortilla could keep all the spaghetti wrapped inside. I made the spaghetti (boiled water, dropped it in, that whole shebang) and then I added it to my sauce. I was using Prego sauce but I happened to have some ricotta cheese so I mixed some of that into the sauce to fancy it up a bit. I went a little light on the sauce which is how I like it, although Lola always prefers her pasta heavily sauced. I then took a tortilla, sprinkled in some parmesan cheese, added in a portion of the sauced spaghetti, rolled it up and then grilled the burrito on a hot skillet with some extra parmesan cheese sprinkled on the outside. It came out looking pretty good.
And it was good. It could have used a bit more sauce (maybe ladled over the outside of the burrito?) but it was a well constructed burrito. The outside crisped up in the pan, so it held together perfectly while you ate it. The tortilla kept the stands of spaghetti manageable too, keeping it cozied up inside the burrito. It was a great delivery system. It wasn’t exactly the same as my spaghetti sandwich however. You can’t substitute a tortilla for white bread and expect the same taste. Also, I forgot how the butter on the bread really added another dimension to the overall taste profile and that was missing in the burrito. Still, it was a pretty tasty burrito and in the future, if you see a Dan’s Spaghetti Burrito food truck, you should get in line while you can and say that you were there for the creation. My goal is to be the Earl of Sandwich when it comes to the spaghetti burrito (El Conde de los Burritos de Espaguetis).
Today was also National Trivia Day which was another holiday I was kind of excited about. Lola and I have been going to trivia nights recently and having some fun, so having a day to celebrate trivia seemed like a novel idea. The problem was that it fell on a Wednesday and there weren’t many local spots that had trivia on Wednesday (I hear Fieldstones does – has anyone ever trivia-ed there?). Plus, Lola had another day where she woke up super early, so being out at night was not a priority for her. I did find a few places on the other side of the bridges that had trivia night on a Wednesday, so I decided to see if my brother (who is an other side of the bridges resident) had any interest in going. Sure enough he was up for it, so we made plans to meet at 7:30. The place was Mary Murphy’s Pub in Wakefield, RI. Neither of us had ever been there, but it looked nice enough. It was a bit of a drive for me, but it was a small price to pay in this quest for celebration.
I don’t think I had ever been in Wakefield before. It’s kind of a booming little town, at least that’s what it looked like as I drove through and the presence of chain restaurants like Five Guys, Moe’s, Starbucks reaffirmed my opinion. Mary Murphy’s was in the center of town which was a bit more charming than the chain restaurant area where the street narrows and it has a more local New England feel to it. The place was small (in a good way) with the room divided into two parts – the bar and the dining area. Mark, my brother, was there when I got there and he had saved us a table. He also said that his son Tom and his buddy Chris would be joining us too. That was nice surprise. Tom turned 21 over the summer and this would be the first time I would ever sit in a bar with him (and with Chris). Mark and I ordered a beer and had some quick catch up time before Tom and Chris came in (about 15 minutes later).
Mark, Tom and Chris were all new to the trivia game so I walked them through the process, but they were pretty quick on the uptake. We gave the host our team name (Harry Hands), and then waited for the questions. I didn’t think the place would be that busy especially being the first week in January (never a busy time in the restaurant world), but to my surprise there were about 10 or 11 teams playing. They must have a pretty regular clientele that shows up. At first the game was easy and I had to convince my team that it would get harder as it went along. It did. We were holding our own although we missed a few questions that I still have remorse over (I missed a super easy Sega Genesis question, convincing the team it was Sony Genesis). Through the first half, we were in 8th place, but just 5 or 6 points off the lead. The halftime question challenged us to name the continent for certain mountain ranges and we did pretty well on that which kept us in the game. We kept going through the second half and still doing fairly well. We missed three questions but kept the point value on those question low, so it never knocked us out. There was one question about a popular DJ whose real name is Joel Zimmerman that was stumping us and while Tom and Chris were racking their brains, I came up with two possibilities: Daft Punk or Deadmaus. The answer was Deadmaus although we guessed Daft Punk but I think I impressed the lads with my pop culture knowledge, especially when they were drawing blanks. Heading into the final question, we were down by 12 points and we knew we had to go all in and bet the maximum 15 points to win. It was put up or shut up time. So we bet the max and the final question was a list of albums and we had to name the two that were not produced during the 2000-2009 era. After some group discussion and tedious process of elimination, we came up with the right answers. We ended up finishing in third place which wasn’t too shabby. We will take that for a victory, especially with a team of rookies.
It was nice being out with Mark, Tom and Chris too. It’s still a weird feeling to see him order a beer, but not all that strange. We had some fun. We got to tell a few tales of our own halcyon days and also hear about how it is for them. It made me think of those early days of being 21. How there are lots of possibilities but you stick close to your friends and to what you know. There’s lots to discover, but time is on your side. They are good kids too and good company. Plus it’s always fun to spend some time with my brother. For a guy that I spent the first 18 years of my life sleeping ten feet away from, we don’t see each other often enough and when we do, it’s usually at family things. But every time we take a night to hang out, I remember that he’s a pretty fun guy and he can still make me smile (although he’s a little slow on the science trivia).
Well that day was celebrated. Spaghetti burritos with a side of trivia. Does it get better than that? I hope it does because it is days like this that remind me why I started this quest in the first place – to just do more stuff and enjoy life more fully. The quest gave me the opportunity to hang out with some good guys tonight and no matter what, that’s a win. There’s more ahead for me, so keep the holidays coming. I’m here ready and waiting for a good time.
Next Up: National Whipped Cream Day