When the BBC broadcast its famous spaghetti tree hoax for April Fool’s Day 1957, it revealed how little the British knew about the source of so-called ‘exotic’ foods such as pasta. Thousands of viewers were taken in by the report, which showed strings of spaghetti being harvested from trees in Italy before being laid out to dry in the sun. The day after the broadcast, the Corporation was inundated with queries about spaghetti cultivation.
It may come as some surprise, then, that our Georgian ancestors were fairly well versed in the finer points of pasta. This recipe for turnip soup calls for vermicelli: thin, cylindrical strings of pasta (the Italian term translates as ‘little worms’). The pasta both thickens the broth and adds interesting texture. Think of this dish as an 18th century rice and noodle soup, or perhaps a turnip minestrone…
Take 12 large turnips & 2 heads of cabbage cut small & slice ye turnips, 4 onions. Fry the turnips & onions in butter, put all down & some pepper, allspice & a large handfull of rice, a bunch of sweet herbs & parsley & 8 qrt of water. Let these stew close cover’d over a slow fire till it coms to 3 qrts. Than have some raw turnips cut small, a little vermicelly stewed tender. Strain the soop over it, give them a boyle together, season it with salt. So serve it up.