Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Global Warming Update......Truffle Shortage

Now, this whole climate change thing is getting serious. I am especially shocked that Al Gore missed this important clue to catastrophic sociological and ecological change: global warming is killing all the truffles! How could Al ignore this....especially with his diet?

It seems that truffle production in France, Spain and Italy is down seventy percent and more. Prices are skyrocketing....and fraud had reared its ugly head. Phony truffles are appearing in restaurants and gourmet shops even in France.

The source of the counterfeit tubers? Where else? China!

The cause of the shortage is a long-term drought. Shortages have been severe going all the way back to 2001....possibly there is an Al Queda connection? Rainfall is down from 40 inches in truffle country to about 20.....with no relief in sight. The ground is hardening up.....truffles that do manage to grow are struggling, and the average size is dropping as well. Truffle production in Provence is down from 33,000 pounds in 2002 to less than 10,000 last year.

In a sure sign of imminent catastrophe, the French have actually had to adapt some things from the more truffle pigs! Even the best trained pig gets his or her share of the tasty tuber.....and at $600 a pound wholesale.....the frugal French finally have given in and are using truffle dogs like the Umbrians.

And, that is $600 a pound for black truffles. White truffles are truly through the roof....running more than $2500 a pound. Last year a three pound, four ounce white sold for $330,000. The gentleman who bought it, Stanley Ho the gambling czar, invited 200 guests and hired two chefs to prepare a feast for his buddies just days after his monumental purchase.

But....proving once again that there is a God, and She has a sense of humor.....Stanley missed his own truffle feast due poisoning.

Meanwhile, the fake Chinese truffles sell for only $60 per pound. The French government has full-time truffle inspectors who hit the wholesale markets and farmer's markets to try to stem the tide of Chinese fakery.

Spain has similar problems. The drought there is causing Montana-style forest fires all through truffle country, destroying the natural habitat of our friendly little fungus. The Spanish have figured out how to farm the things....but as always, wild is better. does $600 a pound translate to the plate? In San Sebastian at Bar Ganbara, Amanda was thrilled to find a pile of fresh, local truffles amongst the daily haul from Sr. Hongo. 900 euros a kilo. This is a bar, though there is a restaurant how do they serve them?

Truffle and eggs. A healthy scraping of fresh black truffle over two scrambled farmhouse eggs. The owner let Amanda pick her truffle, and went back to the kitchen cook the dish himself. Conversation in the busy bar stopped when he returned. The aroma filled the bar.....and the locals and tourists looked at us as if we were mad.....we were also regular consumers of platters of wild mushrooms and gooseneck barnacles, which only the truly dedicated locals eat. And mostly old dedicated locals.....

Look what Santa brought Amanda!

Cost? 25euros. $37.50. Kind of expensive bar snacks.....but dammit, Maude: how often do you get fresh, local truffles....... outside of Umbria?

And maybe even now its a rare treat in Umbria........


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