Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spaghetti Does Not Grow on Trees!

I was only in high school when Jack Paar used his evening television program to show to the United States the great spaghetti-tree-harvest documentary that the BBC had produced for an April 1 broadcast. I remember Paar saying that the hoax had been so subtly successful that several days elapsed before British viewers started calling in saying things like, "I know this is going to sound absurd, but did you show a documentary about harvesting spaghetti trees?" This seems to be the best way to introduce the following legitimate story from the BBC NEWS Web site:

Consumers' associations in Italy have asked people to refrain from buying or eating pasta for the day, in protest against recent price increases.

The groups are requesting the government intervene to reduce pasta prices.

An increase in the price of wheat in recent months has forced pasta manufacturers to pass on the cost.

It turns out that, in this age of globalization, the price of wheat is no longer a national matter. Much (I wish the BBC had given a percentage) of the wheat that goes into making Italian pasta is now imported! This is probably a supply-and-demand problem: The world demand for Italian pasta is so great that it cannot be satisfied by Italian wheat production; and, presumably, what makes the pasta truly Italian is the production process, rather than the ingredients. Of course, if, as Freeman Dyson has asserted, this really is the "century of biology," then perhaps Italian scientists should figure out how to genetically engineer those spaghetti trees that the BBC had imagined all those decades ago! Then we can translate our wine arguments over to the question of whether spaghetti harvested from trees in Australia is as "authentic" as those from Italian trees!

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