I saw the photos first: tan, straggly piles along the banks of an otherwise fertile stream. My mind went to worms, and then gnats. I once wrote an article about fungus gnats, the larvae of which sometimes form circles to travel. Was I looking at something like that? A natural phenomenon that covered the stream in thousands of brown, straw-like creatures?
Nope. I was looking at pasta.
Residents of Old Bridge, New Jersey were presented with a mystery this week: Who dumped mounds of pasta in the forest, all along the stream?
The saga began earlier in the week when resident Nina Jochnowitz alerted town officials to the bountiful mess after receiving a complaint from a neighbor. Reportedly, it was loose spaghetti, alphabet noodles, and elbow macaroni.
“There was literally 25 feet of pasta that had been dumped,” she told The New York Times.
Mayor Owen Henry told NBC News that the pasta was woefully plain. “No sauce, no gravy, no cheese, it was was just piles of macaroni” and spaghetti, Henry said. The pasta, it appeared, had been dumped dry, but began to soften up after a heavy rainfall.
A spokesperson for the town of Old Bridge told PIX 11 that in all, the detritus totaled around 15 wheelbarrows’ worth of “illegally dumped pasta.” The mayor noted that while the dumping was indeed illegal, it didn’t pose a harm to the public.
“It was illegal dumping but it wasn’t anything hazardous. I mean it’s pasta — flour, water and eggs?” Henry said to NBC News.
The mess reportedly took about an hour to clean up and served as a topic of conversation for Old Bridge residents, and the internet, for several days. Who dumped the pasta? Had the Garden State gone Olive Garden on itself? Did someone accidentally order too much online? Was it Big Anthony from the Strega Nona books?
The mystery, it seems, may have been solved by neighbors, who now allege that the pasta was dumped by a man who was cleaning out his mother’s home after her death and apparently came across an old stockpile.
“I mean, I really feel like he was just trying to clear out his parents’ house and they were probably stocked up from COVID,” neighbor Keith Rost told NBC 4 New York. “My grandparents always had a cupboard full of cans and pasta, just to be safe.”
For what it’s worth, if you find yourself cleaning out someone’s war pantry and find a lifetime supply of pasta, it’s apparently best not to hide it in the forest. But if you’re going to dump it, at least leave some sauce behind for those who discover it.