April Fool's Schmäh

Opinion | PJS | BBC

April Fool’s Day is the day every practical joker looks forward to. Even Jack Frost, known as a mischievous spirit, has had his fun with us this year by sending yet another chill of winter, covering Vienna in a blanket of snow.

But it was the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that pulled off one of the biggest hoaxes of all time. In 1957, when spaghetti was still a novelty food in the U.K., BBC’s Panorama presenter Richard Dimbleby told a tale of a Swiss family in Ticino in southern Switzerland who enjoyed an "exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop" following a mild winter.

The announcement was accompanied by footage of a "Harvest Festival" showing Swiss farmers picking strands of spaghetti from a Spaghetti Tree (spaghettius americanus bostoniensis grossus). The presenter continued by explaining the necessary breeding involved in developing a string of spaghetti to a perfect length.

Hundreds of viewers rang the BBC the following day to ask for more information on how to grow spaghetti trees in their gardens. Though the hoaxing holiday was over, the channel responded diplomatically: "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

Later it emerged, the idea was not British at all, but had come from Dimbleby’s colleague, Austrian Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger, who remembered how a teacher in Vienna had once taunted him and his classmates by saying, "Boys, you are so stupid, you’d believe me if I told you that spaghetti grew on trees."

Brits just don’t get the Austrian Schmäh.

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