In 1957, the completely legitimate and credible BBC new program, “Panorama,” pulled an April Fools joke for the ages. They ran a short special on the Swiss spaghetti farmer, explaining the careful process of cultivating and harvesting pasta.
The public bought the lie completely, but to be fair to them, people in the United Kingdom were not all that familiar with pasta in the 1950s. The reverberations of rationing during World War II could still be felt at the local grocery store while the whole of Europe continued to rebuild. Olive oil, for example, still hadn’t even made their way into most people’s diets, and was primarily sold in chemist’s shops as an aide for removing ear wax.
Couple a relative ignorance of Italian cuisine with the reputation of “Panorama” for providing reliable news, and it’s no wonder people didn’t know any better. According to editors of the segment, the whole plan hinged on the voice-over provided by Richard Dimbleby—a broadcaster and news anchor highly respected by the public. The story’s producers were even afraid to ask him to come in on the stunt, but after reading the script he loved the idea.
By the 1960s, immigration was on the rise, eventually bringing exotic dishes like spaghetti and meatballs to Britain, and putting an end to the spaghetti harvest prank.