In a scene that seems straight out of Tomie dePaola's classic children's book Strega Nona, where a magic pasta pot overflows and threatens to engulf a nearby town, residents in Old Bridge, New Jersey, found mounds of pasta dumped next to a river. And by mounds, we mean 500 pounds of spaghetti, elbows, and alphabet pasta. The story went viral when public official Nina Jochnowitz posted about the mysterious pasta dump on Facebook.
After a concerned citizen mentioned it to her, Jochnowitz went to the area and snapped some photos, sending them to the mayor's office. While a crew was sent down to clean up the mess, that still didn't answer the burning question of who had left all that pasta. Local Facebook groups were filled with questions about it, and people wandered down to take photos of the few strands of pasta that remained behind. Reddit was also rife with theories about the origins of the pasta. Some figured it was waste from a restaurant or a large catered event, while others joked about it being left behind as an offering for the cast of Jersey Shore.
Eventually, a local NBC affiliate solved the mystery by simply talking to a neighbor. Keith Rost, who lives nearby, cleared up the macaroni mystery by stating that he knew who had left the pasta behind. He claimed that it all came from a house that is up for sale and was being cleared out by a military veteran after his mother has died. Apparently, she'd left behind quite a stockpile of food and he disposed it in the woods.
“I mean, I really feel like he was just trying to clear out his parents' house and they were probably stocked up from COVID,” he shared in an interviewing, saying it's a generational thing. “My grandparents always had a cupboard full of cans and pasta, just to be safe.”
While the pasta appears cooked in the photos, that was actually not the case. It had been thrown into the woods dry, but became limp after several days in the rain. For Jochnowitz, the event is another reminder about the lack of bulk-garbage pickup for the town of nearly 70,000 residents. Old Bridge is the only town in its county that lacks this service. “It’s been a point of contention for many years,” she told The New York Times.
While the person responsible for “Pasta-Gate” probably meant no harm, Rost is breathing a sigh of relief that the mess is gone. “I just moved in right next door so that would have been a big mess to start cleaning all the flies in the house, maggots,” he said.
Jochnowitz, who said she was in touch with the family to discuss the matter privately, had a good sense of humor about the ordeal. “My hope is that whoever did it is not eating as many carbs as they cooked.”