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The Original Spaghetti Tree

Aprile 2013
Un pesce d’aprile coi controfiocchi. Richard Dimbleby, uno dei massimi presentatori inglesi, fece credere agli spettatori che gli spaghetti crescessero sugli alberi. Correva l’anno 1957 e in molti ci cascarono! Oggi in memoria di questo episodio Alasdair Scott Sutherland (intervistato nel numero in edicola) ha chiamato il suo libro sui ristoranti italiani a Londra “The Spaghetti Tree”. Questo è il video dello scherzo.

Richard Dimbleby (Standard British accent)

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 arrival and welcome 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’s always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining a crop, genuinely 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’m 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 depradations 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 “boccalinoes” 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’s nothing like real home-grown spaghetti!   

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