Spaghetti and meatballs
Collage by Lia Kantrowitz | Images via Shutterstock
Advice

Spaghetti and Meatballs Make No Goddamn Sense Together

Today, we're talking about outer space, good cities for Mexican food, license plate frames, and more.
06 May 2020, 3:42am

Time for your weekly edition of Drew Magary's Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew's new novel while you're at it. Your letters:

Matt:

Why is (are?) spaghetti and meatballs a thing? It's virtually impossible to eat this in any manner that makes sense. The only way to eat it without doing fork gymnastics and making a mess of yourself is to cut up the meatball and mix it in, and at that point it's meat sauce, which you should have had anyway. Or, you can take separate bites of spaghetti and meatball, and if you do that you are a crazy person. I think we have been brainwashed by BIG MEATBALL into thinking this is a valid thing to feed ourselves and others.

I made spaghetti and meatballs for the family, like, three nights ago. It's so reliable as to be an automatic entry in the dinner rotation. Does the combination make sense when it comes to the practical effort of eating? NO. You're right that it's an unwieldy meal. I usually cut the ball in half or in quarters with my fork, twirl a little spaghetti around that bad boy, and then cram it all down my gullet. Or I do your crazy person thing and take a bite of ball and then a bite of pasta. It's a complete fucking mess. It's still delicious and I don't regret it. I will never object to bonus meat in my food.

It's NOT the same as having meat sauce. When you eat spaghetti and meat sauce, every bite is the same. With spaghetti and meatballs, it's more of a choose-your-own-adventure thing. If I want, I can have a clean wad of spaghetti and tomato sauce, just like I loved to eat when I was a little kid (spaghetti was my favorite dinner). Or I can mix it up and choke down a whole ball. THERE ARE NO WRONG CHOICES. I dunno why meatballs have a different flavor to them than sausage or crumbled meat in sauce, but they do. They're their own thing, and I very much respect them. Also, frozen meatballs are one of the better items in the freezer aisle. They're tasty, uniform in size, good to have on hand in quarantine, and you don't have to make them from scratch. These days I exult when I don't have to cook shit. Ordering takeout makes me feel like a millionaire.

If you wanna pick a fight with meatballs, do it with a meatball sub. Now THAT is a motherfucker to eat. Every meatball sub should have its meatballs fastened in place with metal rods so that they can't fall out. I see no issue with this potential setup.

By the way, this article says that Italians usually eat meatballs separately from spaghetti. (If you go to a nice Italian joint, you'll notice meatballs listed as an appetizer a lot.) Us Americans are the ones who decided to combine the two. We're always doing clumsy shit like that. Long ago some Italian-American mother was eating a fat plate of spaghetti and was like THIS-A NEEDS A SPICY-A MEATBALL AY YAY YAY! That lady had the right idea. The execution was questionable but not the intent.

Ed:

When should people brush their teeth in the morning? Should they do it ASAP after they get up, or should they wait until after breakfast? I hate the feeling of morning mouth, so brush right away as soon as I can make it to the bathroom. My wife, who is normally a level-headed, right-thinking picture of sweetness and light, waits until after she has eaten breakfast. I think this is insane, because you're wandering around with gross morning mouth *and* you are basically just eating all the germs that grew overnight in your mouth with your coffee and sandwich. She says that there's no point to brushing before you eat, because you'll get breakfast bits stuck in your teeth, and just have to deal with them anyway, so why not wait.

I figured that dentists had a universally agreed upon, easy-to-Google recommendation to resolve your argument, but they don't. MOTHER. FUCKERS. Turns out you're free to brush before or after breakfast. But everything I've read online (the Internet would never lie to me) says that if you choose to brush after breakfast, you should wait until at least 30 minutes afterward. Or else you'll cramp up and die or something.

I brush right when I wake up. Like you, I wanna get rid of morning mouth as quickly as possible. I don't procrastinate anymore. I used to be an ace procrastinator in all facets, but that went away the second I had to start paying bills. I don't want brushing my teeth hanging over my head all morning long. It's a pain in the ass. I want it out of the way. Also, if I don't brush my teeth right away, my wife can smell my bad breath and recoils accordingly. I can't risk that. If eating breakfast forms a little bit of plaque starter in my mouth, well then I can just brush that away before beddie-bye. So long as I got my two brushings in, I'm covered.

One day I may go hog wild and brush TWICE before breakfast to get my day's quota filled right from the start. I'm just that proactive.

Pat:

Why are sneaker laces so long? As a dad, I, of course, wear New Balances, and I've taken to buying shorter laces from a drug store because otherwise I have to double or triple-knot them. Who wants laces which are that long?

Kids want laces that long. That way, they can leave them untied and drag them through puddles, rivers, patches of mud, and roadside molasses spills. Also, they can so all sorts of crazyass shoe knot designs with long laces! Like these! NOW THOSE ARE HIP.

Personally, I like to tie huge knots and then watch them spill over the side of my shoe, like I'm wearing floppy rabbit ears on each foot. In all seriousness, I don't have problems with shoelace length anymore because I deliberately leave my shoes loose (which uses more of the lace) and permanently tied so that I can just slip them on every day without every tying them. Now you might think this is because I am extraordinarily lazy, which is true. But it's also because I've had three back surgeries and don't care to have another. My second back surgery came after I herniated a disc while helping my son tie his shoes. That was all it took for the disc to go BLOOSH. Shoelaces trigger me now. I fear them. Ten years from now, I'll surrender to Velcro shoes and start playing shuffleboard regularly.

While we're talking about shoelaces, I'd just like to take a moment to bitch about new shoes that come with the laces threaded the wrong way. For display purposes, they thread the laces DOWN through the little lacehole instead of up through it. So that means I gotta un-lace and then re-lace both of the fuckers before I get to experience New Shoe High. Deeply irritating. Just lace the shoes normally before you put them in the box, Nike. I'm sick of your horseshit.

Spencer:

When does a city officially have "Good Mexican Food"? Is the scale set by how it compares to Mexican food in other US cities, or whether it would qualify as Mexican food if plunked down in the middle of Mexico City? Does DC have Good Mexican? (I say yes! There are a few authentic places and you can now generally find tasty Mexican fare throughout the city).

I'm glad you asked me this question because I'm a white guy who grew up in Minnesota, so clearly I know Mexican food.

Anyway, a city has Good Mexican Food when it's located in either California or Texas, and possibly the two wasteland states that lie between them. Those are the states that have Good Mexican Food compared to the rest of the US. That's the scale. I live in the DC area and yeah, you can find some decent places scattered around. But if you have to LOOK for the good Mexican food, then you're not in a town that has Good Mexican Food. The best taco joint near me is 10 miles down the highway, in a gas station, and the line is always a mile long (and almost certainly longer with social distancing now) because everyone else around, literal Mexicans included, knows it's the only good Mexican food near them.

In a Good Mexican Food town, you can fall down and smack your head on a trash Mexican joint that serves insanely good rice and beans with every dish and has those tacos that are kinda small and have two corn tortillas each. Are these places AUTHENTIC? How the fuck should I know? Every fucking BA Test Kitchen addict out there loves to engage in borrowed provincialism, grading food by what they perceive to be the anthropological realness of that food. It's fucking annoying. And California people are so snobby about their own Mexican food that they don't even like it!

I'm insufferable in my own, myriad ways. But I also spent my childhood in fallow lands when it came to Mexican food, so I'm happy for ANY Mexican or Tex-Mex joint with food that grades out higher than fucking On The Border. The Southwest has thousands of these restaurants (all of which could use your support right now). Manhattan has, like, three. So if you gotta hunt around Google Maps for 15 minutes looking for some quality carne asada, you are not in a Good Mexican Food town. If you can step outside and spot something good right away, you are.

Before I move on, I just wanna be nice to DC and say that it has insanely good Vietnamese food (especially in NoVa) and Peruvian chicken. This is very much a Good Pollo A La Brasa town.

Trish:

Do athletes use deodorant during training and/or games? Or do they go "fuck it" and let their stink flag fly? They're going to sweat like Alabama hogs anyway. Plus, a powerful stench could be seen as an offensive (heh) strategy.

DURING games? Of course not. Do you pause in the middle of a treadmill session to throw on some Arrid? No. That would be like trying to shoot down an elephant with a Nerf gun. You cannot fight the smell in that moment. You gotta go with it. Like you said, you're gonna keep on sweating anyway. You may as well wait until all the sweating is done and you're showered up to clean up them pits.

That said, it would not surprise me if some NFL player deliberately wore strong cologne before heading onto the field. These guys are impossibly vain, and occasionally they dabble in rampant alcoholism. They might actually believe that ladies can smell their High Karate from the stands and come running. Like, Joe Theismann would have worn cologne on the field. If he smells cologne on a prospect at a private workout, he instantly moves him up to top of his draft board (written in crayon). I could also see Lawrence Taylor dousing himself in cologne to distract opposing linemen. Let's see if the next ESPN megadoc on him—LT: WHAT A RUSH—reveals such tidbits.

Adam:

It is commonplace in Indiana to be an IU basketball/Notre Dame football fan. Are there other states that have this problem with college allegiances???? Shouldn't you have to pick one college and suffer with ALL the crappy sports teams???

Unless you went to the school in question, NO. You're not obligated to give a rat's ass about USC basketball if you're some USC football guy who lives in Manhattan Beach and works for fucking Intel. You didn't even go to USC, so you owe them nothing (unlike actual USC students, who will owe the school $400,000 from graduation until death). Root for whatever college combination you want. IU basketball and ND football is easily one of the worst possible pairings you can devise, but that's Indiana. I EXPECT those people to make all the wrong choices.

HALFTIME!

Jeff:

I was 36 and a new dad with a 7-month old, so it goes without saying I gained about 10 lbs. in 2019. I'm heading to my first-ever cardiologist appointment later today. What's weirding me out about this rapid fat-assening is how my pants fit. I can still fit pretty comfortably in my generic-guy-in-his-30s work pants, but I can't get the button even close on my suit pants. Went to a wedding last year and used my niece's hair tie to extend the clasp a couple inches (10/10 would recommend). I'm packing on 1-2 pounds each month, so am I incrementally stretching out my work pants? Did I turn a 34 waist into a 36 waist in just a few months?

I am a veteran of the waistband stretching process, so my answer is YES, you probably did. This is something that happens a lot with jeans, where you break them in and they gradually conform to your body as you eat more and more burritos. Then you go to buy a new pair in the exact same listed size and they won't even get past the middle of your thighs when you try to put them on.

It's a fucking horrible feeling, when you expect clothes to fit and they don't. You feel like everyone else is the right size and you aren't. Every trip to a GAP becomes a psychological gauntlet. I get embarrassed when my clothes don't fit and no one else is even around. I've had nights where I've had to dress up for something, gone to my closet, and realized with growing horror that none of my decent pants fit. I hate myself in those moments. I can listen to all the empowering pop anthems I like—"U Do U" by Meghan Trainor some shit—and it does nothing to assuage the self-loathing. Those old jeans are actually doing me a disservice by being so comfortable, tricking me into thinking my body has stayed the same when I've been housing pancakes all spring. This is why I only wear track pants now.

Like Jeff, I also went to a cardiologist recently (before the pandemic). When you hit your 30s and 40s, you start to experience all the middle-aged man shit: hypertension, weird skin blotches, wrinkles (my wife says I look like I had my ears pierced because of the wrinkles on my earlobes), and finicky erections. I've had to deal with all that shit, PLUS I had to get hearing aids to boot after suffering a brain hemorrhage in 2018. Like I said, shuffleboard is next. Anyway, the cardiologist had me do a stress test where he hooked electrodes up to my nude torso, then had me walk on a treadmill as he gradually increased the speed and incline. It fucking sucked. I was winded five minutes in, and I work out five days a week! I've never felt so old and shitty. MY KIDS DID THIS TO ME.

Danny:

I, like most people, have been too lazy to take the dealer license plate frame off my car for the past 6 years. I have decided now is finally the time to stop giving Toyota Carlsbad free advertising space on the front and back of my Prius. I am leaning towards an alumni frame to replace it, but that too feels kind of lame. Please rank the available options for license plate frames, including a no-frame option. Thank you.

Just went outside to check my own car and yup, the dealer frame is still there. They gave me a nice metal one. Very sturdy. And I'll never take it off because A) I be lazy, and B) When you don't have a plate frame, your car looks like shit. Looks like you stole the goddamn car and had a chop shop switch out the tags. That's how dealer frames became the cheapest, most effective trick in the whole branding world. They tack them onto every new car and no one ever objects, save for the occasional MAGA turd who needs the frame equivalent of a bumper sticker, with stars and stripes and LIBERTY in bold fonts somewhere along the top. Those dealers all tricked us all into thinking frames are necessary. THE PERFECT CRIME.

I should really get a Vikings plate frame. It's only like $15 to buy one. Then again, I have Vikings headrest covers, plus a little Vikings football ornament hanging from the rearview. If I get that frame, I'm crossing the line into Steelers fan territory. You never wanna have too much team merch on display. You don't WORK for the fuckers.

Jonny:

Recently I was reading an excellent sci-fi book (I'm not telling you which one because this is kind of a spoiler), and it has blown all the 'why haven't we met aliens?' theories out of my mind. The basis is this: there are other alien civilizations out there, but they all know that if they made contact with another bunch of aliens and revealed their position, there's a nonzero chance that the other aliens would be bad aliens who would either invade their world and kill them all with superior technology. I think we should stop with all the sending messages out into space business. We may have been fortunate so far that our messages don't get much past our solar system. Please point out the holes in this logic so I can stop thinking about it.

The hole in your logic is that other alien civilizations CAN'T eradicate us. We're too far away to destroy. To reach us, aliens would have to have technology so advanced that it would defy the laws of physics that govern not just Earth but the entire fucking universe. Also, we earthlings are doing a bang-up job destroying ourselves, thank you very much. We don't need to outsource that job to Kang and Kodos. Arizonans are playing fucking Ring Around the Rosie with each other right now in an act of redneck seppuku. We'll all be dead by September.

So please, rest easy. Your odds of dying in an alien invasion right now are about the same as the odds of you, Jonny, being named starting quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. It doesn't matter if we're sending distress signals to the outer reaches of space or not. But it very much DOES matter that we keep trying. If we ever made First Contact, it would be the most important event in human history since the death of Christ. And even if we don't, merely undertaking the task is essential. It's the ultimate effort to reach beyond both ourselves and beyond our current, collective knowledge base, which is hilariously small. To abandon that effort just because a Roland Emmerich movie might break out, or because (cosmic sigh) it's too expensive is fucking garbage. We already have enough people down here who have no existential ambition, and who have no interest in exploring things beyond the contents of their own asshole. They're complacent wastoids. Don't be one of them. Grab a HAM radio and send out a message for the Kygaxxes in System 12. Tell them we need more ventilators.

Dan:

When do smart toilets become a part of the mainstream smart home?

Not anytime soon, given that everyone is now jobless. Also, there are some appliances that I would prefer NOT be smart. I don't want a smart fridge, or a smart dishwasher, or a toaster that's fucking Bluetooth-enabled. All that shit is expensive, and it breaks, and I don't need BIG DATA selling my dirty dish count information to the highest bidder. I just need a toilet that can handle my sizable bowel-load. I don't think this toilet can handle that job:

That's a toilet. I know it looks like one of those little surveillance droids that zip along the hallways of the Death Star. And yeah, this toilet will clean your asshole with warm water and then scan it with a black light for lingering fecal residue, but I still don't trust it. Look at the sales copy.

With built-in Amazon Alexa, Numi 2.0 lets you create your ideal environment with only the sound of your voice.

AMAZON WANTS TO EAVESDROP ON OUR SHITS. IS NOTHING SACRED? IS THERE NO ESCAPE? I bet the aliens have friendlier toilets.

Matt:

How do digital clocks (or phones, computers, etc) measure time? Mechanical clocks use machined parts and regulated movement to achieve a consistent second. How does my phone know how long a second is? There can only be one reference digital second, right? Who controls the digital second? Am I paying some kind of second-keeper royalty when I purchase all of my digital devices? Should I be worried about some pirate-state like North Korea stealing the digital second and forcing the free world to bow to their will?

Can't believe I have to answer this while sober. Anyway, digital clocks tell time based on a precise internal signal. Read about it here because otherwise I'm just gonna plagiarize it for both our sakes. Your phone is different because it's linked to a master clock used by your ISP. That's how it automatically switches time zones when your plane lands in Sacramento. Wonders never cease.

As for your computer, it measures time the same way your alarm clock does. And then, without warning, it resets the time on your desktop to 2004 anytime you do any kind of system maintenance. Then it adds that wrong timestamp to any new documents that you download, so that your current work lives in a time warp. What I'm saying is that maybe I need to buy a new PC.

Johnny:

Am I the only person who pees himself WHILE sitting on the toilet? It seems to have started happening to me every now and then in the last few years. I'm sitting there dropping the kids of at the pool and suddenly my leg feels wet. Or even worse, I finish up and pull up wet pants. Apparently mini-me likes to aim right at the crack between the seat and the bowl. Tell me I'm not alone.

I've had that happen once or twice. But then I just pushed my dick down so it didn't happen again. You can touch your own dick still. That's not a COVID risk. Stuff that peener down into the bowl like you're loading a musket.

Email of the week!

Rob:

My grandpa was an old farmer, and growing up in the Great Depression they didn't have things like chips that we take for granted now. So one of the greatest treats was when they butchered a hog they would cut the skin into small pieces and deep fry it. Cracklins. Similar to a pork rind.

Once someone gave me a gallon bag full of fresh pork cracklins. I tried a few but could tell they would cause explosive consequences if I ate more than a few. So I decided to give them to my Grandpa, who grunted and perked right up when he saw the bag. "Cracklins!"

The next day I decided to visit grandpa and figured I'd eat a few cracklins with him. He was watching TV. I looked around on the table, then in the fridge. Finally I asked where they were. "I ate them!" I laughed and said, "Wow, I bet they made you shit like a goose." He leaned his head back and said with pride, "Oh no... I just shit niiiiice. I usually run plugged."

And here I am taking fiber supplements like a total sucker.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.