I’m not creative enough to come up with a better April Fools’ Day prank than the one the British Broadcasting Corporation aired. On April 1, 1957, the morning BBC news opened with a statement about spring coming early that year, prompting the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland to be early too. The announcement was made against a video backdrop of a family from Ticino, Switzerland picking long strings of pasta from the trees as they carried out their annual spaghetti harvest.
As the happy peasant women harvested pasta from trees, the distinguished broadcaster Richard Dimbleby made the whimsical claims about the foodstuff’s cultivation with a serious voice and a straight face.
“Spaghetti’s oddly uniform length is the result of years of dedicated cultivation. The ravenous spaghetti weevil which has wreaked havoc with harvests of years past, has finally been conquered.”
To add credibility to the pasta hoax, the 3-minute broadcast included a comparison of the relatively small Swiss harvest with the much larger Italian spaghetti harvest.
An estimated eight million people watched the program on April 1st and more than 250 viewers jammed the BBC switchboard after the hoax aired. Most of them called in with serious inquiries about the piece — asking where could they go to watch the harvesting operation. Many asked if they could buy spaghetti plants themselves. For those anxious to try their hand at homegrown pasta, the producer Michael Peacock offered this helpful hint:
“Many British enthusiasts have had admirable results by planting a small sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hoping for the best.”
Pasta was not an everyday food in 1950s Britain. It was eaten mainly as tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce and considered by many to be an exotic delicacy.
This April Fools’ Day be wary of what you believe. This story about the Spaghetti Harvest prank is true, but April 1st is always a great source of non-reliable information — the original fake news!
Sources: BBC Panorama Programme