Friday, April 01, 2005

it's spaghetti harvest time

For one of the great hoaxes in history, look to the British. The august BBC ran a piece on a news program called Panorama, in which a highly-respected journalist, Richard Dimbleby, delivered with absolute seriousness a story about the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. Spaghetti was relatively unknown at that time in the U.K. and viewers began calling the BBC asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. The BBC encouraged caller to place a stick of spaghetti upright in a can of tomato sauce. Here's the transcript:

It isn't only in Britain that spring this year has taken everyone by surprise. Here, in the Ticino, on the borders of Switzerland and Italy, the slopes overlooking Lake Lugano have already burst into flower at least a fortnight earlier than usual. But what, you may ask, has the early and welcome arrival of bees and blossoms to do with food? Well, it's simply that the past winter, one of the mildest in living memory, has had its effect in other ways as well. Most important of all, it's resulted in an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop.The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer. There's always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavor and makes it difficult for him to obtain top prices in world markets. But now these dangers are over and the spaghetti harvest goes forward.

Spaghetti cultivation here in Switzerland is not, of course, carried out on anything like the tremendous scale of the Italian industry. Many of you, I'm sure, will have seen pictures of the vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley. For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair. Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, the tiny creature whose depredations have caused much concern in the past. After picking, the spaghetti is laid out to dry in the warm alpine sun. Many people are often puzzled by the fact that spaghetti is produced of such uniform length but this is the result of many years of patient endeavor by plant breeders who have succeeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.And now the harvest is marked by a traditional meal. Toasts to the new crop are drunk in these boccalinos. And then the waiters enter bearing the ceremonial dish and it is, of course, spaghetti, picked earlier in the day, dried in the sun, and so brought fresh from garden to table at the very peak of condition. For those who love this dish, there's nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.

- thanks to Manhattan User's Guide for the info.

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