Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rice-A-Roni The San Francisco Treat

The Inventor of Rice-A-Roni has died

Vincent M. DeDomenico Sr., inventor of Rice-A-Roni has died, he was 92. This from the New York Times:

"The DeDomenicos invented their signature product in 1958 after watching a sister-in-law mix a can of Swanson’s chicken broth with rice and vermicelli, according to an account in “Napa: The Story of an American Eden,” by James Conaway (Mariner Books, 2002). They concocted a version that used dried soup.

Rice-A-Roni transformed the business of the Golden Grain Macaroni Company, which was started by Mr. DeDomenico’s father, Domenico. After leaving Sicily in 1890 at 19, he settled in San Francisco, initially starting a vegetable store, then opening a factory that sold pasta to Italian stores and restaurants.

Vincent DeDomenico was born on Sept. 29, 1915, in San Francisco, the fourth of six children. He joined the family business, eventually becoming president, controlling the company with two brothers, Tom and Paskey.

In 1964, Golden Grain bought a famous and more historic San Francisco icon, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which was founded in 1852 by Domingo Ghirardelli, also an immigrant from Italy. In 1986, when Golden Grain had grown to $250 million in annual sales, the DeDomenico family sold it to Quaker Oats for $275 million".

End Snippet

Cultural Ownership and the Perception of Jingles and Commercials In Early Childhood

Vincent M. DeDomenico Sr. wasn't just the inventor of Rice-A-Roni he was also responsible for creating the "Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat" jingle which I remember from my early youth. As a child you watch, and listen to many things on television, as well as in other aspects of life. When you are very young of course you do not know the origin of this, or that piece of experience which comes to shape your experiences - you just experience them.

Even as adults we simply have too little time to fully source each experience back to its source. We may see a nice looking automobile, and think "Wow, Detroit finally got one right!", or we may hear a jingle on television, and know that it is designed to manipulate our feelings, and think, "Wow, that advertising agency is doing a good job". Those are adult thoughts we occasionally apply, but so much is left unfiltered simply due to the pace of modern life.

However, with children there is little cognition, little in the way of complex thoughts to which to apply to all the incoming experiences. As a child you hear a jingle, and you see a simple image of a box of Rice-A-Roni, and a street car atop a hill, and you don't give it much thought, simply because you don't know what makes Rice-A-Roni unique, or what a street car is, or the topography of San Francisco. You simply hear the jingle over, and over again - and see the box of Rice-A-Roni.

And that is how I remember the jingle from my early childhood. I never understood it - the product. Even when the product would find its way to our table I never linked eating it to the Jingle, as I was a child, and never bought the product, or prepared it until I was an adult.

So now the great revelation is that by mixing two distinct products, RICE, and MACARONI, we have RICE-A-RONI.

If someone had told me that as a small child I might have found it interesting enough to remember that each and every time I saw that commercial, or heard that jingle, and I would have "known" what Rice-A-Roni was all about decades before, but no one ever did.

Like so much of life I find myself playing experiential "catch up" as an adult - to so many things that I experienced as a child.

It is so much like taking a photograph from your childhood out of an old shoe box, blowing off the dust, and rediscovering something unique which you never understood before.

And so now I take the Rice-A-Roni early childhood memory out once again, and place it into an adult context - one which now includes knowing who invented it, and that they bought the same chocolate I love to eat. I also know that the family made a fortune selling their company to Quaker Oats.

But in a few months will I even remember any of that? In the age of information overload - despite having written this little essay on Rice-A-Roni I doubt I'll recall much about any of this, and so what was just a childhood memory of a jingle will once again become just that.

Note: Google Results on Rice-A-Roni Videos = ELEVEN PAGES OF RESULTS!


ThirtyWhat said...

Gosh, JP ... know what I remember about Rice-a-Roni? That enormous box that the "loser" would win on "Let's Make A Deal". Remember that? Wow ... seems like being a booby prize would be considered bad advertising ...

In any case, it must've confused me because since my mom never made it ... I always thought Rice-a-Roni was a negative thing. It never occured to me that she might've just not cared for rice ... LOL

Dave said...

There are no commercial jingles anymore, only old (and some new) rock songs.

I don't think I've ever had any Rice-a-Roni. But your right, it was kind of a cultural icon 30+ years ago for some reason.

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