Friday, September 3, 2010

Bumper spaghetti crop!

I'm reading a book about the history of the tomato in Italy, called Pomodoro! Although written by an academic, David Gentilcore, it is chock full of allusions to entertaining cultural artifacts big and small relating to this juicy (couldn't resist) topic. I'll review it next week.

Here's one I didn't know about. In 1957, the BBC produced a mock reportage of the year's "spaghetti harvest," going into details of its cultivation and the problems associated with it, such as the evil spaghetti weevil. It was broadcast on April 1st, but this didn't stop many Brits from believing that spaghetti really did grow on trees.

Of course this shows the enormous provincialism that still existed in the world after WWII. Even more bizarrely, the scene is not set in Southern Italy or in Italy at all, but in the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino. As Italy and Britain had been bitter enemies in the recent war, the British probably didn't want to offend their very recently-acquired ally. And decided to pick on the neutral Swiss.

To be fair, if the RAI had shown a serious program with some English miners extracting tea from the earth in Lancashire, and then consuming the fruits of their labor directly from teapots, some Italians would have believed them.

You can see the BBC's page on the hoax with the original video here.