Schwingen In Switzerland’s Top 10 Posts Of 2012

Since everyone seems to come out with a Best of 2012 list at the end of the year, I thought I would list my top 10 most viewed posts this year.

  1. Everything You Don’t Need And Can’t Live Without – I don’t like to sit still, don’t nap and hate to be bored.  I realize that it doesn’t always make me the most relaxing person to be around, but it’s generally pretty entertaining.  When we had a free Sunday, I decided to go check out a little shindig they had going on in the cool Carouge neighborhood.  Unexpectedly, this post was selected for Freshly Pressed.
  2. Tschäggättä Parade To Celebrate Carnival In The Lötschental Valley – One of the best things about Switzerland is its festivals.  This one was unlike anything I’d ever seen.  This was my first post to be Freshly Pressed.
  3. More Pictures of the Versoix, Switzerland Ice Storm – Remember the picture of the frozen car?  Well, since it was taken in a suburb of Geneva, I couldn’t help myself.  I went to get the shot.  On a side note, it would have been smart of me not to wear high heals when doing so.  A couple of nice Swiss gentlemen helped me off the ice.  Yep, I’m an idiot, but the pictures are great.
  4. Our Basement Bomb Shelter, Otherwise Known As Our Storage Unit – I’m glad other people are as intrigued by this phenomenon as I am.
  5. Mt. Blanc, The Tallest Mountain In The Alps – I am profoundly grateful to have seen such beauty.
  6. The Spaghetti Tree Hoax, Aka Happy April Fool’s Day From Switzerland – Hilarious.  Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.
  7. My Introduction to French Cinema, A List of Great, Entertaining and Fun French Films – While I posted this before Jean Dujardin won the Oscar, some of his comedies made the list.
  8. Why Didn’t Hitler Invade Switzerland? – This was a hard one to write as it’s a difficult question.  I hope I didn’t screw it up too badly.
  9. Another Cultural Difference…Men In Spandex – Sometimes, it’s the little things…
  10. What The Heck Is A Bidet? – Please feel free to comment with any additional uses you can think up for a bidet.

 

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The Spaghetti Tree Hoax, Aka Happy April Fool’s Day From Switzerland

Courtesy of the BBC

After a bit of research I determined that they celebrate April Fool’s Day in Switzerland.  Although it isn’t a holiday like Swiss National Day, St. Bartholomew’s Day, EscalandeFasnacht or Tschaggatta, so government offices and schools are open (or would be if it fell on a weekday), they do play practical jokes.   I hope you forgive me for my last post on the southern Switzerland’s spaghetti harvest, it was a bit of an April Fool’s Day joke.  Sorry.

One of the most famous April Fool’s Day Jokes involves Switzerland…in a way.  The British news show, Panorama, broadcast a three-minute news segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland on April 1, 1957.   The previous post was the story verbatim.  People swallowed it hook, line and sinker.   It generated an enormous response and became one of the most popular April Fool’s Day hoaxes of all time.

In honor of April Fool’s Day, I thought I would explain how they came up with the idea and managed to pull it off so successfully.  The spaghetti harvest prank was the brainchild of Charles de Jaeger, a cameraman for the BBC and jokester.  Growing up, one of his teachers told the class, “boys, you’re so stupid, you’d believe me if I told you that spaghetti grows on trees.”   How could he not turn that into a joke on film?  He pitched the idea to several bosses over the years with no success.

In the 1950’s, Panorama was the BBC’s leading news program with ten million viewers.  It aired every Monday night.  When de Jaeger realized that April Fool’s Day fell on Monday night, he shared his idea with the writer David Wheeler who loved it.  They convinced Panorama’s editor, Michael Peacock, to produce the segment (with a budget of only £100).  Peacock agreed, but insisted it be kept a secret, fearing the BBC would veto the project.

When they went to Switzerland to film the segment, it was cold, misty and trees hadn’t blossomed.  They traveled to temperate Lake Lugano in Italian Switzerland where there were evergreen Laurel trees.  They hired some local girls in their national costume string 20 pounds of uncooked spaghetti from trees at a hotel in Castiglione.  He filmed climbing ladders carrying wicker baskets, filling them with spaghetti, and laying it out dry in the sun.  He also filmed his actors eating a spaghetti feast.  The footage was then edited into a three-minute segment with background music.

At the end of Panaroma’s April 1st broadcast, the show’s highly respected, eminently dignified and solemn anchor, Richard Dimbleby, introduced the segment, adding the necessary gravitas.  He made a great straight man, without cracking a smile started the report with “And now from wine to food. We end Panorama tonight with a special report from the Swiss Alps.”  They then showed the prepared footage.  At the end, Dimbleby closed the program with, “Now we say goodnight, on this first day of April,” emphasizing “this first day of April.”

The BBC immediately began receiving calls about the segment.  Some were complaints about such frivolity on a news program, some were to settle arguments about the origins of spaghetti,  and still others were inquires about where viewers could purchase their own spaghetti bush.

The hoax worked for several reasons:

  • Richard Dimbleby was so distinguished, authoritative, and revered that people took everything he said as true.
  • At the time, spaghetti was not a widely eaten in Britain.  When it was, it was it often came from tins. It was a foreign dish, an exotic delicacy.
  • It was pre-internet, encyclopedia Britannica didn’t even mention spaghetti and so it was hard to research and/or verify the origins of spaghetti.

Even the head of the BBC Ian Jacob, fell victim to the scheme.  Nevertheless, like much of the British public, he was a big fan of the hoax.   It became legendary and Johnny Carson even rebroadcast it.  You can see it for yourself by clicking this link to YouTube.

In case you were wondering, to start your own spaghetti tree, place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.

Bumper Spaghetti Harvest In Southern (Italian) Switzerland

This year has been a great year for spaghetti.   The success of the this year’s crop was attributed to a strong freeze followed by a mild winter south of the Alps and to the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.

Courtesy of BBC

In 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.

Courtesy of BBC

But what, you may ask, has the early and welcome arrival of bees and blossom to do with food? Well, it is 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.

Courtesy of BBC

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.

Courtesy of BBC

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 air. Many people are very puzzled by the fact that spaghetti is produced in such uniform lengths. This is the result of many years of patient endeavour by plant breeders who suceeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.

Courtesy of BBC

Now the harvest is marked by a traditional meal. Toasts to the new crop are drunk in these boccalinos, then the waiters enter bearing the ceremonial dish. This is, of course, spaghetti — picked early 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.

This story is verbatim from the BBC.  Thanks. BBC.