Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Day I Ate Spaghetti from ALDI

One afternoon, I decided to make a pasta dinner consisting of NOTHING but items procured from America’s cheapest supermarket chain. The toxicology report will be posted shortly.

If you’ve never heard of ALDI before, rest assured, you most certainly WILL if the economic downturn continues.

For the uninitiated (oh, you ivory-tower dwellers, you), ALDI is the name of a branch of low, low, LOW budget supermarkets in the United States, with an absolutely amazing history.

ALDI was a German supermarket founded in 1961 by these two guys named Karl and Theo Albrecht, and their respective life stories are so amazing that it would be a disservice to the Internet if I didn’t go a little in-depth about their lives before segueing into my stupid little blog post about making spaghetti out of icky, bargain-basement foodstuffs.

To begin with, Theo (who died in 2010) was an absolute J.D. Salinger-level recluse, having exactly two photographs of himself made public between the years of 1971 and 1987 (and the first one only came about because he was kidnapped for a couple of days.) He was also, as the kids say, rich as shit, dying with a net worth of an estimated $16.7 billion. And because dualism is a real thing, the head proprietor of a shop dedicated to shoddy food items was also the founder of Trader Joe’s - an alternative grocery-store that caters to consumers with a taste for expensive, health-savvy products.

The benefits of Nazi technology.

The current head of ALDI is Karl Albrecht, who as you might have guessed, was Theo’s brother. While you’d think that selling crappy, knock-off food to the masses wouldn’t be the most lucrative of businesses, you’d be W-R-O-N-G, as not only is Karl the richest dude in Germany according to Forbes, he’s one of the ten richest human beings on the PLANET, with a 2011 net worth of more than $25 billion. And also, he was a Nazi. As in, a REAL NAZI, and not the allegorical kind most of us are used to hearing about.

While ALDI chains have been in the U.S. for quite awhile, I’ve noticed that their marketing presence has really ratcheted up since 2008. A decade ago, I’d say a good 99 percent of U.S. residents thought ALDI was an IKEA sister service - today, it’s one of the most popular grocery stores in the nation, amongst not only the downtrodden and starving, but peculiarly, the well-to-do and well-off, as well.

The plastic container has more flavor than what's inside it, though.

Going into an ALDI is such a bizarre sociological experience. The afternoon I waltzed into the chain, the parking lot was filled with about 50 percent people you knew were living below the poverty line, and the other half? They were rolling around in BMWs and Lexuses. Those crafty Krauts, I must say, have really found a way to successfully target the polar opposites of the American food chain, no doubts about it.

As you’d guess, the items at ALDI are…well, not exactly name-brand, to say the least. The really funny thing I observed was that, although all of the items seemed to have been made by ALDI’s in-house manufacturer (well, their AMERICAN in-house manufacturer, anyway), the packaging for the products were dead-on facsimiles of the stuff you’d find in an “actual” super market. Just cascading through the aisles, you’d never realize that the shelves are stocked with “Mountain Frost” and “Fruitee Pebbles.” To be fair, there are SOME name brand items laying around the place, but I think it’s safe to assume that nine times out of ten, you’re going to be staring at  an “original” product that looks oh-so suspiciously familiar, for some reason or another.

And also, for every minute you're in the store, you're charged an additional ten cents.

The business practices at ALDI are unfathomably ghetto. For one thing, if you want to use a shopping cart, you have to plug a quarter into the cart coral, and even worse, the dudes make you pay an extra couple of cents for the use of bags and sacks. You read that right, dear reader: ALDI CHARGES YOU FOR GROCERY BAGS. The only way these goose-steppers could find a way to bilk more money out of you is if they started charging parking fees (and let’s be honest, that’s probably next on their “to-do” list, anyway.)

Several challenges present themselves for shoppers at ALDI, the least of which is the fact that the give you surcharges for breathing in the building. While there is a lot of “fresh” produce to be found, you pretty much have to make-do with whatever non-perishable items are just lying around the building. That means if you want a box of spaghetti noodles, you have exactly ONE option for said noodles, and if it’s a five pound carton of angel hair when you wanted a one pound bag of gluten-free linguini, you’re just S.O.L, son.

Mmm...budgetary cutbacks. 

You may be asking yourself what on earth could have possibly possessed me to WANT to make a spaghetti dinner consisting of nothing but ALDI-bought items. Honestly, folks, I can’t give you an answer, other than the fact that I probably do EVERYTHING that pops into my head, no matter how asinine or absurd. I guess this idea was one of my milder forays - don’t start spreading any rumors, but I’ve wanted to do a live-action performance of Donkey Kong using my school’s giant-assed glass staircase for about three years now.

I suppose one of the positives about spaghetti is that it’s pretty hard to mess up as an entrée. I mean, whatever you end up boiling, you’re just going to drench in tomato sauce and several bags of shredded cheese, so who cares what you throw in the pan, anyway?

Squash; like zucchini, only more respectable.

If you want to recreate this project at home, you’re going to need a few supplies (and it helps if you also have a blatant disregard for your own personal well-being, too.) To begin, we’re going to need at least two pots, and access to water. If you have that…congratulations, you’re better off than most college students these days.

In pot one, toss in some sliced up squash. If you have zucchini, that’s cool, too, although the produce section at ALDI is notoriously difficult to navigate and/or smell. It’s not much of a visual experience at this point, so instead, look at this picture of a giant assed mushroom I saw while hiking a few weeks ago.

...only instead of giving me a 1-up, it just made me go into convulsions for a couple of hours.

Once your squash is all nice and, uh, squashed, it’s time to break out the KNOCKOFF SAUCE. It’s a pretty simple process, really - just open the can, make the sign of the cross, dump it all over your veggies and simmer.

It's almost hypnotic, in a way...

Now’s a good time to collect your side items. Salads usually go pretty well with Italian food, and since synthetic Parmesan cheese was on sale at ALDI that afternoon…well, two and two still makes four, don’t it?

...but more stewed than hypnotic, I suppose. 

At some point, your tomato smothered squash will be really warm and steamy, and that’s your cue to turn off the stove/make amends to your creator. There’s really no turning back now, so if you’ve made it this far…congrats/my condolences.

I’m not really sure WHAT an ALDI Spaghetti dinner (henceforward referred to as SpagALDI) is supposed to look like, but this is what our final product resembles. All in all, it wasn’t bad, in most aspects, although the noodles had absolutely ZERO taste to them whatsoever. Additionally, it was probably the weakest Parmesan cheese I’ve ever sprinkled on anything, but the sauce, for all intents and purposes, wasn’t too shabby. Granted, this thing is no Spaghetti-Chili or Thai Pizza, but we all sorta’ figured that heading into the project, no?

I can’t tell you what I set out to accomplish with this recipe, but here it is, anyway. It’s far from the most appetizing “custom-food” I’ve built over the years, but much to my surprise, it was indeed edible (although something you probably wouldn’t want to whip up to impress a date, a dean, or somebody whom you owe a ton of money to, though.)

I guess I just wanted to eat SpagALDI, and live to tell the tale. And once the internal bleeding stops, I’ll let you know how the leftovers were...


  1. I don't understand why you are so critical of the quality of Aldi's food. It is no worse than any prepackaged name brand garbage sold in higher end stores. It's just inexpensive. Aldi is branching out into organic food as well, but USDA organic, so you still get the required amount of glyphosphate in your diet.

    1. KC, are you kidding me? It's a dump for welfare folks. I laughed at the produce...the artichokes were half the size of a real grocery store. This place is for people who think they are getting a bargain but buying cheap junk in smaller amounts to make it look like a bargain. Oh and don't get me started on the checkout....lines of people. I was embarrassed to be there. We left. I'll leave it to you and other ghetto rats to shop there.

    2. KC, are you kidding me? It's a dump for welfare folks. I laughed at the produce...the artichokes were half the size of a real grocery store. This place is for people who think they are getting a bargain but buying cheap junk in smaller amounts to make it look like a bargain. Oh and don't get me started on the checkout....lines of people. I was embarrassed to be there. We left. I'll leave it to you and other ghetto rats to shop there.

  2. Aldi is so mint what you talking about.


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