By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Oct 31, 2022 at 6:01 PM

It's officially soup season – though, for me, it's always soup season. Whether it's brisk or balmy outside, I love a bowl of a classic chicken noodle or dumpling, perhaps a rich and umami-filled ramen, maybe a ladleful of a lively pozole – honestly, pretty much anything. But above all of these options, there's one soupy spoonful that I'm always hankering for. 

Uh oh, it's SpaghettiOs. 

Is it a soup? Or is it just pasta in a liquidy sauce? Don't care – all I know is that they're always delicious and always just what I need to get by when it's meal time and I'm too lazy to cook real food but just energetic enough to peel open a can, plop it into a bowl and set a microwave to two minutes. It's warm, it's soothing, it's playful and – what you may not know – it's got a local connection

That's right: SpaghettiOs superfans have Wisconsin to thank for this culinary creation – Waukesha to be specific, where the SpaghettiOriginator Donald Goerke was born in 1926. Working for Franco-American and Campbell Soup, Goerke was tasked with coming up with a new canned pasta for kids, one that could survive heating on stoves or in newfangled microwaves as well as could survive their target audience turning them into a mess. Goerke came up with the scientifically-sound O shape, and more than half a century later, his spaghetti circles are still a common pantry staple. 

Except in my house. See, I may like SpaghettiOs – but cans of the classic pasta rings don't do it for me. (Nor do the meatballs or franks, which I find too mystery meat-like to me – a controversial opinion to some.) All due respect to Goerke and his original delicious design, but modern pasta technology has improved the SpaghettiO with a miraculous innovation: different shapes. 

Yes, over the years, SpaghettiOs have branched out from its classic ring shape to all sorts of pop culture figures – from superheroes to "Super Mario Bros." to "Star Wars" and beyond. But my preference for the shapes over the Os isn't just for silly fun, picking trendiness over traditional. There's science! OK, not really science; I've done no studies on this very important topic. However, it seems very obvious, from just looking at a bowl of classic SpaghettiOs versus a bowl of shaped SpaghettiOs, that the shapes provide more noodle in a bowl. And certainly a more toothsome noodle; the rings are small and flimsy whereas the detailed shapes are larger and have layers of pasta architecture involved, there resulting in a thicker noodle and a more satisfying eating experience. Science!

But also ... yeah, it's just for silly fun. I mean, come on: If I'm going to eat canned pasta in runny tomato soup originally developed for children, I might as well go full manchild, go for the special shapes and have a good time eating them. It doesn't matter whether you're five years old or 95: Little Spider-Man masks and webs are more enjoyable and entertaining to eat than just a bunch of tiny circles. That's especially the case if you're a obsessive sectional eater like me, carefully trying to find and eat up all of a particular shape before moving along to the next. It's almost like a game – a game that you always win because you're eating delicious canned pasta you had to put almost no work into making and enjoying!

There's just one problem with the shaped SpaghettiOs: These days, it seems Campbell Soup only produces one kind of the shaped noodles with no franks or meatballs, and that shape is ... Disney princesses. Nothing screams "I'm a sophisticated grown adult man" quite like rolling up to the grocery store checkout with a half-dozen cans of SpaghettiOs shaped like princess tiaras, slippers, carriages and castles. Maybe (hopefully) the person running the register assumes I've got kids at home. 

Or maybe they know the glorious truth: SpaghettiOs shapes are the best, and like the Disney princesses on the can, they reign supreme. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.