I am not certain of the date, or even the year. It was sometime in the early 1950’s and boy was it a big deal for Devils Lake at the time. It was called Macaroni Day and was quite a spectacle to a young boy.

I am not certain of the date, or even the year. It was sometime in the early 1950’s and boy was it a big deal for Devils Lake at the time. It was called Macaroni Day and was quite a spectacle to a young boy.

There was a parade as well as a Macaroni King and Queen. The day came about because the Chamber of Commerce must not have had much to do. There was no fishing in Devils Lake at the time and duck hunting season had not arrived so not having anything else to do, the Chamber said “Let’s have a Macaroni Day.”

At that time, Devils Lake claimed the title of the Durum Wheat Capital of the World which explains why we had Macaroni day. As you learn at an early age in Devils Lake, macaroni is made from durum wheat. Glad we didn’t have broccoli day. I never cared much for broccoli.

The parade and all may have had some appeal, but the real draw was the free plate of spaghetti on Macaroni Day. That free spaghetti got my attention, but then came the crowning touch. To make the day super, the Chamber folks came up with a whopper of an idea. They were bringing in an Italian chef from New York to cook the spaghetti and sauce. That just about sealed the deal for me.

You have to figure there is nowhere this side of Italy that you are going to find a better spaghetti chef than in New York City. Having never been east of Wisconsin, I may not be an expert on the world’s chefs, but you have to admit a New York chef sounded impressive.

On Macaroni Day the street in front of the courthouse was blocked off. Tables and folding chairs were set up for the diners. Serving tables were set up near the front stairs to the court house. There was a special table set up for a pie eating contest later in the day. I found out the contestants could not use their hands to eat the pie. The thought of eating a June berry pie with no hands sounded like a dream come true, but I found out I was too young to compete.

Then I got a bit of great news. My dad was going to help The Chef cook the spaghetti noodles and sauce, and I got to come along to watch. One thing confused me. Dad would need an instruction sheet to cook boiled water. Where could he have learned enough about cooking spaghetti to help the Chef? Well, you cannot cook spaghetti for thousands of people on your kitchen stove. The cooking took place at Fairmont Foods creamery where my dad worked.

In the pasteurizing room at the creamery were multi-hundred gallon vats for pasteurizing milk. You could think of them as the original giant crock pots. The largest vat was filled with water and brought to a boil. Spaghetti noodles went into the boiling water. The smaller vat had gallon can after gallon can of spaghetti sauce dumped into it. Then came the canoe paddles.

No kidding, canoe paddles.

Who would have thought canoe paddles would be the cooking utensil of choice. Well, that is how they stirred the sauce and noodles. When finished cooking, the sauce went into big cream cans and the noodles in others. The cans were trucked to the court house for serving while another batch was prepared.

My disillusionment got the best of me. My Idol, “The Chef”, was a joke. His secret recipe was “open a can and dump it in the pot.” He did not wear the big white puffy hat chefs are supposed to wear. He was not that great at opening cans and dad was a lot better than him with the canoe paddle. I decided to head to the courthouse and drown my sorrows in a plate of spaghetti. I ate a plateful that filled me up and had enough left over on my shirt for breakfast the next day.

People must have come from everywhere that day. I think they served more plates of spaghetti than there were residents of Devils Lake. Many people were probably enticed by the lure of a famous professional Italian chef from New York City.

If they only knew.

Author Robert Pfleiger was born at Mercy Hospital 4/10/1943. He spent his first 14 years in Devils Lake. Pfleiger attended St Mary's Academy through eight grade. His father, Casper Pfleiger, worked for Fairmont Foods and was transferred to Minneapolis in the summer of 1957. He attended high school and college in Minneapolis. After the University of Minnesota Pfleiger married to his wife, Mary, and worked for Honeywell. He was transferred to Nashville, TN in 1967. In 1980 he left Honeywell and started Ener-Tech Industries which he has since sold. Now, he is retired and calls Amelia Island in Florida home. The Pfleigers raised four daughters, have five grandchildren and like to travel whenever possible. Pfleiger says its been a long time since he visited North Dakota but he remembers Devils Lake fondly.