Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tree Fruit.

The very authoritative British journalist and broadcaster Richard Dimbleby hosted the very authoritative current affairs program Panorama in the 1950’s - it was, naturally, on the BBC – and you cant (or couldn’t, in the 50’s) get any more authoritative than the BBC. On this date in 1957 he reported on the springtime harvest of spaghetti in Switzerland (not such vast spaghetti plantations as in Italy). He described how the growers always had an anxious time in March for fear of frost, which harmed the flavour of the crop, but that thankfully the dreaded ‘spaghetti weevil’ had all but disappeared. He discussed the fact that each strand of spaghetti grew to the same length each year thanks to intense cultivation by growers over many generations. He even showed pictures of the crop being harvested, and the spaghetti strands being laid out to dry.

Many viewers were most intrigued by the story of something that was only familiar to them in cans: some rang in to ask where they might purchase a spaghetti bush, so that they could grow their own. A not insignificant number were not amused in the sort of way that only the British can be not amused when they realise they have been ‘had’. A few of those were apparently BBC staff. Today, he would have been sued for causing embarassmen-stress to his fellow-workers, but the Brits still had their post-war strength of character, and he got away with it. The spoof is still the best-ever April Fool’s joke. Ever.

Just to show that there were a few enlightened souls in the British Isles at that time, I give you a recipe from the wonderfully British Constance Spry Cookery Book (1956). Constance and her colleague Rosemary Hume ran the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London in the ‘50’s, so could be expected to be at the cutting edge of international cuisine.

Spaghetti a la Bolognese.
1 large onion
1 oz. dripping
¼ lb. liver (chicken, calf, or pig)
½ oz flour
1 ½ gills stock
a bouquet garni
1 teaspoon concentrated tomato pureé or 1 tablespoon reduced tomato pulp.
1 clove of garlic, crushed with a large pinch of salt.
Freshly ground black pepper
A dash of sherry or Marsala
½ lb spaghetti
a little melted butter
chopped parsley and grated cheese.
Finely chop the onion. Melt the dripping in a sauté pan or shallow saucepan, add the onion and sauter slowly till turning colour, then put in the liver (whole if chicken liver, diced if otherwise) and cook briskly for a few minutes; draw aside. (If chicken liver is used, it must now be removed, sliced, and returned to the pan.) Sprinkle in the flour,mix, pour on the stock, season, and bring to the boil. Add the bouquet, tomato, and clove of garlic, and finish seasoning with some freshly ground black pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy-looking. Remove the bouquet and add the sherry. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti … and return to the pan, add a little melted butter, cover with a cloth, and leave to stand in a warm place until the sauce is ready. Pile the spaghetti up in a hot dish and pour over the sauce. Seve at once, well dusted with chopped parsley, and with a dish of cheese handed separately.

Tomorrow’s Story …

A Mighty Spread.

Quotation for the Day …

No man is lonely eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention. Christopher Morley


Liz + Louka said...

Oh no, the video is no longer available :-(

The Old Foodie said...

Ha! Ha! you caught me! My first attempt to put up a u-Tube bit - so I was sure it would not work. You made me go and check! HaHaHa!!

Rochelle R. said...

What a treat to see the video. I read an online article about the 10 greatest April Fools tricks but they only had a tiny photo of the spaghetti plant. Thanks for the post.