When Spaghetti Grew on Trees


The Day Mother Nature Sprouted Oodles of Noodles

It was Springtime, 1957, when eight million British Nationals couldn’t believe their eyes or ears. 

The report caused hundreds of hungry citizens to clog phone lines, eager to learn the secret. They too wanted to grow their own backyard Spaghetti Trees.

Meanwhile, others scoffed at the idea of noodles hanging from branches. 

Obviously, spaghetti grew on bushes, not trees. 

Either way, who wouldn’t wanna grab a bowl, skip out to their garden and pluck their own pasta?

Problem is, you can’t. 

So what convinced all these people to think they could?

Never mind that the report was released on April 1st. Until now the only form of pasta known in this part of the world came in a tin can and was more of a delicacy than a cheap meal. 

How others enjoyed it 800 miles away, in a southern Swiss village bordering Italy, was anybody’s guess. After all, less than half the population owned a television set at this time. 

And that raises two quick observations:

  1. When the sources of information are few, there’s very little competition to contradict you.
  2. This report’s reach was limited to people who could afford TV’s. In other words, affluent, smart people.

The first point seems to work in favor of the messenger. Other than TV, there were really only three other ways to access information – newspapers, radio, and magazines. The option of pulling out your phone to quickly verify the report on the internet didn’t exist.

What about the second point? Does that help make the message more convincing or less so?

Back then a television set cost the equivalent of $1,500 today! So chances are, people who could afford tv sets at the time were successful, discerning, trendsetting professionals.

So, how did this report cause a bunch of sharp, self-assured people to question their beliefs?

How They Pulled It Off

First, let’s take a look at what they saw and then we’ll pull some lessons from the script we can use for ourselves.

Does pasta really grow on trees? See for yourself.

7 Persuasive Writing Tips You Can Use to Influence Others (with Examples)

Begin with something everyone can agree on to get them on your side. 

“It isn’t only in Britain that Spring, this year, has taken everyone by surprise.”

Beat your audience to a question, so they see you as one of them.

“But what you may ask, has the early and welcome arrival of bees and blossom to do with food?”

Mix in some facts with matter-of-fact assumptions that support your point to lend authenticity.

“…the past winter, one of the mildest in living memory, has had its effect in other ways as well…The last two weeks of March…there is always the chance of a late frost.”

Push the story further by giving the audience an opportunity to nod yes when you presume they know something. 

“Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of the vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley.”

Include additional detail to make it more believable.

“Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, the tiny creature whose depredations have caused much concern in the past.”

Eliminate any possible doubt by answering a question your audience may not have had, but now makes them an insider.

“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 succeeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.”

Bring what is imagined to life by leaving your audience with a positive and upbeat outlook.

“Toasts to the new crop are drunk in these boccalinos, then the waiters enter bearing the ceremonial dish…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.”

Why It Worked

Consider the Source


Aside from the brilliant writing and video editing, there is one final piece to this puzzle that helped sell the message.

The channel that aired this episode, Panorama, was a highly reputable news program at the time, giving them immediate legitimacy. Adding even more credibility was the fact they used a well respected war correspondent to report the story.

In other words, their reputation preceded them. Any chance for the viewer to doubt what they’d seen flew out the window, before the presentation even began.

So how would you apply these tips to work in your favor?

To see where I’m headed with this blog, read my About page here.

See you next post. – Philip