11 Jul 2023

On 1st April 1957 the BBC broadcast a three-minute documentary on its flagship current affairs programme, Panorama, trumpeting the success of the Spaghetti Harvest in Ticino Canton, Southern Switzerland. It showed a family picking spaghetti from trees in the morning, laying it out to dry in the afternoon and being served at a celebratory family feast in the evening.

The voice over by the late Richard Dimbleby explained - in tones imbued with unmistakeable BEEB gravitas - the reason for the bumper harvest was an unprecedented early spring which induced spectacular growth plus the absence of the spaghetti weevil for the same meteorological reason.

Nowadays climate change activists would have spotted the ruse simply by challenging the very notion that global warming might have some beneficial effects.

Back then, only 44% of homes had television receivers – about 7 million homes from a total of 15.8 million. What proportion of the audience saw Panorama that night is unknown but some claim as many as 8 million individuals may have watched.

Many called the BBC the next day asking for tips on how to grow their own spaghetti trees and were offered the suggestion that they should “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” The Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley might have been a more apposite institution to consult on the botanical possibilities of developing a strain of spaghetti trees which produce uniform lengths of spaghetti which Panorama also claimed in their celebrated broadcast.

When you see what horticulturalists have done by scientific intervention in bonsai development, or willow trees for cricket bats or poplars for matchstick production, then anything is possible if it can be turned into a highly profitable business. Pasta production is certainly that.

In all honesty, it is impossible to know how many people in Britain knew how to make pasta in 1957, any more than it is possible to calculate how many people know how pasta is made in 2023.

There is a multitude to choose from. The following is just a scattering in alphabetti order: Angel Hair; Bow Tie (Farfalle); Bucatini; Ditalini: Egg Noodles; Fettuccine; Fusilli; Gemelli; Gnocchi; Lasagna; Linguine; Macaroni; Manicotti; Orecchiette; Orzo; Penne; Radiatore; Ravioli; Rigatoni; Rotelle; Rotini; Shells; Spaghetti; Tagliatelle; Tortellini; Vermicelli; Ziti.

The mind boggles at the different shapes of trees needed to produce this range of pastas. Each has its own shape, personality and purpose.

Most Brits when asked where Pasta comes from would probably say Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s although the more sophisticated used to say Waitrose.

Your author must own up to the truth that he only discovered last week that it is made from unleavened dough consisting of ground durum wheat and water or eggs.

Stanley Jackson

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