Fool's Day, a spring ritual

Fool's Day, a spring ritual

Aylin Öney TAN -
Fools Day, a spring ritual

A short documentary film is showing spaghetti growers.

It was exactly 56 years ago. The BBC reported that the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland was enjoying an exceptional season due to unexpectedly good weather. It was on the Panorama program on April 1, 1957 and the report was supported by a short documentary film showing spaghetti growers harvesting their supposed crop from trees in Switzerland. The show was watched by an audience of 8 million. The creative mind behind the outrageously silly news was the Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger, who had a reputation for being a practical joker among his friends. He had the idea long before Panorama, but could not sell it to his previous bosses. 

His inspiration was a school teacher of his when he was a student back in his home town of Vienna, who often scorned the class by saying: “Boys, you’re so stupid, you’d believe me if I told you that spaghetti grows on trees.”

There were all the BBC elements that would add to the credibility of the news. The report was voiced by Richard Dimbleby, the famous presenter of the program whose authoritative tone added to the reliability. David Wheeler, the reputable producer of the BBC program, was also another figure who had been instrumental in adding to the seriousness of the program. He later said that he had no regrets about the reporting and he believed it did people good to realize they should not believe everything they see on the television. However, many did not realize that it was a hoax, believing the news without even questioning its absurdity. It was the BBC, and it had to be right. Of course back in the 1950s, the British had very little perception of other cuisines and Italian food was yet to be discovered by British chefs. Nobody questioned why it was Swiss but not Italian spaghetti being harvested, or what spaghetti had to do with trees. 

April Fool’s day has its roots in the spring festivals. The Pagan spring rituals were celebrated throughout March, peaking around the 21st, the spring equinox, and then when the celebrations were over, the start of the new year arrived on the first of April, according to the old Julian calendar. However, the shift to the Gregorian calendar accepted January 1st as the start of the New Year, the date officially adopted in 1564, but many people continued celebrating the first of April as the New Year. Those fans of April celebrations were nicknamed April fools, and they were the object of practical jokes. They were compared to the stupid fish caught and easily fooled by the worm stuck to the hook, which is why there are jokes about April fish in France, Italy and Belgium. 

Prior to the famous spaghetti harvest there have been many food-related spoofs. One of the first ever must be the news about Edison inventing a new machine converting soil to cereal and water to wine. The news appeared in New York Graphic just a year after he invented the phonograph in 1877. Firm believers of his genius did not even suspect this was a joke. 

And of course there have been other twists of nature similar to spaghetti growing on trees. In 1950, pine and cedar trees along the Rim of the World highway in Southern California had oranges growing overnight. The oranges were actually hanging from the trees, about 50,000 of them, strung by the nearby residents, all the fruit being left over from the recent National Orange Show. 

In 1996, Virgin Cola launched the new technology cans, enhancing consumer safety, the stale cola reacting with the can turning it bright blue as a warning of the expired sell-by-date. Needless to say the rival Pepsi had recently introduced newly designed bright blue cans in the market. 

The list goes on and on, and sometimes has an awkward reality to it. There is a list on the internet Museum of Hoaxes reportedly curated by an enthusiast called Alex. 

Among the list, compiled of the craziest examples, one hoax from about a decade ago, made me wish that it was true. The British Daily Mail reported about a new line of socks to help lose weight. This doesn’t seem to be a hoax, the media is always full of too-good-to-be-true news of this sort. The explanation on how the system works was hilariously inventive. “FatSox” would actually suck the body fat out of sweaty feet. A patented nylon polymer called FloraAstraTetrazine in the socks would draw “excess lipid from the body through the sweat” when the person’s body heat rose and the blood vessels dilated. Then the wearer would simply wash away the fat away from the socks. 

Bright isn’t it? Unfortunately, the only reality about losing weight is to eat less... Now time to detox our body and soul from all the silly joke-like diet cures and eat something really fresh and healthy!

Recipe of the Day:
All spring festivals celebrate eggs, spring greens and lamb. This lamb dish with lettuce is so easy that it’s like a joke. Take a big head of Romaine lettuce, wash the leaves and tear them into big pieces. Line a pot with half of the leaves. Place lamb shanks on the bone on the lettuce leaves. Salt and pepper the lamb pieces liberally. Cover the meat with a small bunch of chopped spring onions. You can add a handful of stalks of spring garlic. Cover with the rest of the lettuce leaves. Pour a little water to reach halfway up the meat pieces. Cover and cook over very low heat for 1.5 hours. Believe it or not, unbelievably good!

Bite of the week

Fork of the Week: Just the season for green almonds... Serve them over crushed ice and serve along with a little bowl of sea salt. Perfect with a martini cocktail or gin and tonic. 

Cork of the Week: Spring freshness comes from a fresh cool white wine! The Chamlija wines have won two silver medals for their “Chardonnay Istranca 2011” and “Chardonnay Kırklareli 2011” in the reputed World Competition of Chardonnay Wines in France. The two wines are both from the Thrace region close to the border of Bulgaria, a new and upcoming wine region of Turkey that was historically famous for its wines imported to the port of Venice.