Boy oh BOY-AR-DEE!

Okay, before you even think it...yes, I know, this stuff didn't taste anything like a real pizza. I know that. This was standby food. My mother kept things like this and boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese in the cupboards at the cabin in case we got snowed in. The walk from the cabin to the car during the winter was around 1/2 mile. Then you had to put the chains on to drive over the summit to a store which was around 10 miles away. So processed foods were fine and dandy when it was storming outside.

When my father sold the cabin we had to go through everything, over 30 years worth of stuff, and either toss it or put it in the U-Haul and bring it home. You can see where my priorities were. I brought home some great stuff.

Chef Boy-ar-dee box_front_tatteredandlost
Chef Boy-ar-dee box_back_tattredandlost
Click on either image to see it larger.

What I find most fascinating about this is what's missing, besides a bar code. If this product were made today there's an ingredient that would be here. This proves it's not needed. See if you can guess what it is.

Now, why did I save this? 99% of the population would call it trash. I look at it differently and not just because I like ephemera. My degree is in graphic design. I've always been attracted to all sorts of design, and old package design has always fascinated me. I had the opportunity to go into advertising after college, but wisely said no. I'm far too cynical about advertising and I wouldn't have lasted long. My big mouth would have eventually gotten me into trouble with some client, or the rolling of my eyes. Publishing was a much better fit for me. And freelance design is even better because I can roll my eyes without any client seeing me. So that's my reason and I stand behind it. I look at this box and think "there but for the grace of God go I." I could have been stuck somewhere pasting-up mechanicals for Chef Boy-ar-dee boxes.

Unlike Betty Crocker, Chef Boyardee, actually Ettore Boiardi, was a real person so the image you see on the box is real. He died in 1985. Betty Crocker went through a variety of images over the years, constantly being "updated" to fit the current "image" of women. I especially loved the uptight one with the business suit and puffy tie. Boiardi stayed true to his image and I believe his image is still used on the products bearing his name, which most likely now contain the dreaded ingredient not in this package.

To see some print advertisements for Boy-ar-dee products, including the pizza, click here.


  1. Holy Cow! That's the only pizza I knew about when I was growing up, but we could only afford the plain cheese. I think it was $.75 a box. My dad hated it (he was very old school country) and called it (excuse my language) "pissy pie". He hated the smell of it baking. Can you believe it is still my favorite and sometimes if my hubby is away, I'll get a box and make one just for me. Just like it comes out of the box, no additional toppings, not even mozzarella. Remember when the parmesan came in a little can and you had to poke holes in it with a church-key opener?

    Once when my niece (4 years younger than I) was staying with us for the summer, we stole $.75 from my mom's purse so that after she and my stepdad left to visit his brother we could ride down to the little grocery store about a mile down the road and buy a pizza mix. We baked it while they were gone, never once thinking that "hmmmm, they might be able to smell it in the house and wonder where it came from". We both got into trouble! It was worth it!

  2. I love your dad's name for it!

    Until probably the 1960s I didn't know pizza was different than this. My mom bought boxes of it at the commissary. And yes, I remember the cans of cheese with the key. The can that was in this one I don't think it had that. But mice had gotten in an eaten the pasta so that got tossed. Of course the cheese and sauce were hermetically sealed so nothing got through to them. I always thought of this stuff as perfect bomb shelter food.

    Once I tasted real pizza I never wanted to go back to this. I didn't know they still made it. I never go to grocery stores anymore so I have no idea what stuff is being pushed. I know they do not sell it in bulk at Costco. And they don't sell it at Trader Joe's or my local produce stand. I should really go into a grocery store as just sort of an anthropological expedition.

  3. And I love your big heist story! I'm sure the pizza tasted even better than usual because it was tainted with danger.

  4. Really interesting to see this product. We never had anything like this in the UK, but we did have Vesta ready meals of curry and chinese food which, like your pizza, bore no relation to the real thing. They do still sell them but I am not in the least tempted!

  5. Ah, yes, like our Chung King boxed Chinese food. Dreadful taste, especially if you grew up having good Chinese food available.

    Chef Boyardee also made Spaghetti-os which I admit as a kid I loved, though not the ones with the odd canned meatballs. Don't know if they still make them. And like you, not in the least tempted!

  6. hey - I think its really great you saved this box - I spotted it on Flickr and have been checking out your blog - do you have any other old food poxes you will be photographing - I always like seeing that sort of stuff - I have quite a bit myself on Flickr - I do estate sales sometimes - and Im always finding older paper - stuff like you have here - if you keep an eye out for stuff I might like - even if you think its too new (1980s..90s..) - maybe we could do a future trade
    fun blog :)

  7. Hi Pete, thanks for dropping in. Yes, I do have some other boxes and in time will post them. Unfortunately I won't be parting with any of them. Sorry. I'm not interested in trading. I like finding these things and then I hold onto them, much to the dismay of family members who think it's all garbage. Send me a link to your Flickr posts so I can see what you're sharing.