Technically these are called “Emeril’s Bam Meals, Oh Yeah Baby, O’s Pasta & Meatballs in Emeril’s Delicate Tomato Sauce” but that’s way too long. They’re Emeril-Os. I grew up eating Spaghetti-Os and I still love them. These days, though, I have to save them for comfort food emergencies because they give me thermonuclear heartburn. When I saw that Emeril had thrown his hat into the canned pasta ring, the idea was so weird that I just had to give them a try.
According to the label, Bam Meals have no MSG and 25% less sodium than my beloved Leading Brand. The lack of MSG is actually a big selling point for me. I have a mild allergy to MSG, eating it causes a vague yet pervasive sense of wrongness for a few hours afterward. As for the sodium content, it’s still pretty high (450 mg per serving). Turns out that 75% of a crapload is still a crapload. I got curious about how the rest of the nutritional stats compared, so I checked out the Spaghetti-Os website. In a surprise upset, Emeril-Os have more calories, more fat, more sugar, and less fiber and protein. Spaghetti-Os also have considerably more vitamin A, calcium and iron. Neither one will ever be mistaken for health food, but Spaghetti-Os are the lesser of two evils.
When it comes right down to it, though, I don’t eat them for their nutritional value. Their appeal has more to do with taste and nostalgia (and sometimes desperation because there’s nothing else to eat). So, how does Emeril compare in the taste department? Not bad. The first thing I noticed was the “delicate tomato sauce.” Apparently “delicate” is code for “really really thin.” It was kind of like tomato water. And it was sweeter than Spaghetti-O sauce. The pasta was exactly the same and the meatballs were slightly better. The biggest difference, for me at least, was the lack of nuclear heartburn after eating.
The verdict – Are they better than real Spaghetti-Os? Not really. Are they better for you than real Spaghetti-Os? Again, not really. Is it worth it to avoid truly awful heartburn? Maybe, unless I am having a comfort food crisis that makes the threat of acid pain worth it.