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Swiss Spaghetti Harvest Hoax

Below is probably the most classic April Fool’s Day hoax of all time. On April 1st, 1957 the BBC ran a short programme about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland, showing spaghetti growing on trees. Many people believed the programme and phoned in to ask how they could grow their own “spaghetti tree”.

Below are the actual words spoken in the video. At the end of the page is WordChecker to help you with vocabulary.

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 blossom 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 is always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavour 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 am 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 at such uniform length. But this is the result of many years of patient endeavour by plant breeders who’ve 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 is nothing like real home-grown spaghetti.

WordChecker

  • spring: the first season in the year when plants begin to grow in temperate latitudes
  • slopes: the lower hillsides
  • burst into flower: the flowers have opened
  • blossom: flowers
  • anxious time: worrying time
  • frost: very cold weather, below freezing; ice
  • to ruin: to destroy; to damage very badly
  • to impair: to damage
  • to carry out: to do
  • bumper year: a very good year, with a big crop
  • depredations: attacks
  • endeavour (AmE endeavor): hard and constant effort

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