The Spaghetti Tree and the Story of the BBC Prank – Italian cuisine reinvented by Gordon Ramsay

La Cucina Italiana


For a moment (or perhaps longer) millions of Britons believed in the existence of a spaghetti tree. It happened in 1957 because of a BBC documentary that aired on April 1st. It was supposed to be an April Fool’s joke, in fact: a stunt that no one thought could be taken seriously. Instead it became legendary, even remembered like the first joke ever to air on TV.

The Spaghetti Tree Documentary

Protagonist of the story aired on the main television broadcaster in the United Kingdom, a small Swiss family from the Canton of Ticino which, in a particularly hot spring, finds itself grappling with an incredible harvest of spaghettii: soft strings of pasta that emerge from the tree branches. When looking at those images, the British are struck: almost no one in the 1950s knows about spaghetti, it is considered an exotic ingredient. Those few who eat them buy ready-made spaghetti, seasoned in a jar.

The incredible stories of Richard Dimbleby

But the documentary is convincing, also thanks to the narrative voice of the highly credible BBC television host Richard Dimbleby and his detailed story. A story in which theItaly for “the incredible plantations of spaghetti trees in the Po Valley“, where even “spaghetti grows on trees all of the same length”. «For lovers of this dish – says Dimbleby in the documentary – there is nothing better than real spaghetti, grown at home!. All this with the complicity of the Austrian cinematographer Charles De Jaeger, most likely the mastermind of the joke since shortly after he lets it be known that at school the teacher accused his classmates of being so stupid as to believe that a spaghetti tree could exist. It is Charles De Jaeger who thinks of hanging spaghetti on the tree and, after a series of attempts to find the perfect consistency, i.e. the most realistic one possible, he succeeds and shoots the video.

The result? BBC telephone switchboard down, besieged by thousands of people asking for information on how to grow spaghetti at home so they can eat them as soon as they are picked. «Just put a sprig of spaghetti in a can of tomato sauce and hope for the best, reply the operators, reserving apologies for those who do not grasp the (British) humor of the documentary and protest against the fact that the BBC has broadcast a fake. Whether it’s a joke, many don’t care.

The legend of the spaghetti tree

The fake, however, set a precedent, so much so that ten years later in Australia the Melbourne television station HSV-7 invented it a similar story starring a Sicilian family, with less pleasant implications for the journalist and presenter Dan Webb. After the airing of another made-up story about spaghetti trees, Webb is forced by the publisher to respond personally, with handwritten letters of apology, to the requests and protests of angry viewers because they cannot tolerate attending certain masses on stage.

What happened to the spaghetti tree

Meanwhile, the spaghetti tree has become a legend, so much so that over the years in Anglo-Saxon countries even food education campaigns have been launched (the cover photo is of one of these) which have made it the protagonist. Campaigns to explain to children that no, unfortunately this tree doesn’t exist, that spaghetti comes from durum wheat, but also that the real ones are really good. If they are then seasoned with tomato, they are a delight.

This recipe has already been read 35 times!

Proudly powered by WordPress

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. Click here to read more information about data collection for ads personalisation

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Read more about data collection for ads personalisation our in our Cookies Policy page

Close