Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Life of a Truffle

Truffles are a delicacy in many parts of the world, especially in France. They are a mushroom-like fungus that grow around the roots of oak trees. They are not planted and raised like other edible items but are just haphazardly found in the ground. At one time, pigs were used to "root out" the truffles but now dogs can do it.
The "truffle people" find the truffles in the ground and bring them to market. Every Tuesday in Lalbenque, France there is a truffle market. It is really quite an interesting spectacle to behold.
The market opens precisely at 2:30. There are wooden benches lined up along the sidewalk which is roped off from the public. The truffle people start early by laying out their baskets or bags of truffles for the customers to appreciate,

The customers assess the quality of the truffles mostly by smelling them.

We were there early so we sat across from the "market" and had a drink while we waited for the action to begin.

As it gets closer to 2:30, the crowd starts to build. Many are buyers but most are just spectators.

At 2:30 on the dot, a person blows a whistle and the rope comes down. It is a mad scramble for the buyers to get what they want. They step across the sidewalk to the benches, money is exchanged and it is all over in a matter of minutes. The cost of the truffles varies depending on the quality but it can range from 800-1,000 euros per kilo, or more. It is strictly a cash business, no checks, no credit cards.
What happens next takes place in the kitchen. The chef at our hotel mixed his truffles into the beaten eggs the night before. The next morning he whipped up an "omelet au truffle" which ended up on our plates for us to appreciate. It was pretty tasty.

This was a very interesting "slice of life" in France. Who knew that a little ball of fungus would attract so much attention. 

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