Not only does Aroma of truffles reveal all the secrets of this refined tuber, it also suggests the places where to buy it and the ways to preserve it.
This work lists the most important exhibitions and ends by suggesting some old recipes.
“A book centered on simplicity, not superficiality – but on the simplicity of life, around which writers have always woven luminescent webs of gratitude. A pleasant read, then, for those who wish to enjoy in full the best things in life.”
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Aroma of Truffles
AROMA OF TRUFFLES
Author: LINA BRUN
Translation from the Italian by Cassandra Iliffe
Foreword by Pietro Frassica - Princeton University
© Lina Brun 2007
First paper Edition 2007
First digital Edition 2020
Edizioni Lina Brun
Via Cardinal Maurizio, 12
10131 Torino - Italy
The author wishes to thank
Associazione per il Centro Nazionale Studi Tartufo
ATL Langhe e Roero
Ente Fiera del tartufo bianco di Alba
Biblioteca Regionale del Piemonte
Biblioteca Giuseppe Grosso della Provincia di Torino
Biblioteca Civica Giovanni Ferrero di Alba
A special thank you to all those persons who helped me and in particular:
the trifulau Stelvio Casetta of Montà d’Alba
La Casa del Trifulau (Frazione Burio - Costigliole d’Asti)
For the drawings, images and photographs:
Associazione per il Centro Nazionale Studi Tartufo
Carla Parsani Motti
Anna Irene Costa
Archivio Ristorante del Cambio
Archivio Ristorante Il Carretto
Virginia Chiodi Latini (Vintage)
Archivio Grand Hotel Sitea
The publisher apologizes to anyone who could not be found with regard to quotations and the reproduction of texts and photographs of which the copyright is owned by other persons, together with any inadvertent omissions and/or attribution errors in the bibliographical references.
Like many flowers, truffles, too, have an exotic side to them starting from that French-sounding “r”.
If you take a walk down the main street in Alba on any day in autumn you will be immersed in their aroma (Piedmont spells truffles) that overcomes any other of the season as it wafts from the shops preparing for Christmas.
The effect this aroma has on passers-by is sublime, it takes possession of their soul.
It seems that people remember odours better than images. In fact, as it has been said: “of the five senses, that of smell goes straight to the brain, with no detours.
Smell is as quick as an electric shock.” (Jim Twitchell, Selling Culture in America).
As if jealous of its privacy, the truffle lies safely hidden underground, away from indiscreet eyes, in the bed it has claimed for itself from the unrelenting soil.
Safe until the months of autumn bring the ritual parade of well-trained dogs and expert trufflemen (trifulau) who will give this precious tuber its identity, and the best specimens will have the honour of attending international auctions.
Thanks to the quick connections offered by satellites, extraordinary sales take place within a few minutes and prices are often higher than the cost of a car or a diamond.
The pledge of this “king” of the table is, however, in its double, elegiac and worldly soul, whose culinary meanings are put forth among myth and physiology, science and sensual decadence, magic and economic weight, in this sophisticated and original book by Lina Brun.
A learned and gripping account that explores the truffle from ancient times down to our present, one that organically cover all its facets.
Research and pleasure become a ritualistic corollary in this organizational operation that revokes history, species, standards, formulas of the truffle without forgetting that the actual eating of it can be a sensual and very satisfying experience, even for those overwhelmed by the ‘super-thin at all costs’ mania.
With an eye to the caprice of taste, full of delicate whimsical nuances, but free from any pedantic classification, this catechism of truffle-lovers is complete.
Little does it matter if the truffles are not of the prized white category, the boast of the Langhe and the Monferrato, or if they are not big enough to be quoted on the commodities market.
They are, and remain, a joy of the palate and a comfort to the soul.
To tell the truth, I also like the other more proletarian truffles of Romagna, those that grow in the sandy soil (they may taste of garlic, but they certainly have a lot of aroma), and the truffles of Umbria.
Not to mention those that once used to be found in Brianza, since they express their territorial, or better, local origin; as though each of these prized tubers still harboured an ancient and intact force whose roots reach right back into the deep past.
To eat them in any tavern, on slices of bread spread with a good butter, is sufficient to put one at ease with the world.
This is the best way to savour them because they add a unique atmosphere, a sophisticated pleasure, a comfort to the senses; in a way, they can become really aphrodisiac eaten like this, their male pheromones become active, hormones sexologists consider as having aphrodisiacal virtues, praised, by the way, by many famous lovers (Rabelais and the Marquis de Sade, to mention a couple).
Not only does Aroma of Truffles reveal all the secrets of this refined tuber, it also suggests the places where to buy it and the ways to preserve it.
This work lists the more important fairs and ends by suggesting some old recipes which are sure to have an effect.
A book centred on simplicity, not superficiality – but on the simplicity of life, around which writers have always woven luminescent webs of gratitude – a pleasant read, then, for those who wish to enjoy in full the best things in life.
Nature’s wardrobe contains a thousand colours, and the hills resemble the palette of an artist who, dissatisfied with his work, continually paints new layers of colour over what he has already created, each time choosing bolder shades.
The fruit of a year’s work is being gathered in the vineyards. The crucial moment has been awaited with trepidation, and with an eye to the sky for fear of too much rain or that it rains at the wrong time, and with the hope that this crop will prove one of the best.
The must of the first grapes gathered is already fermenting in the wine cellars.
It’s autumn, the season of fruits but also of mushrooms that spring up around the foot of trees, often hidden among the leaves.
Their harvest is a reward to the gatherer who manages to spy them and a delight to gourmets.
In the dark depths underground, on the roots of host trees, often chosen inexplicably, another kind of mushroom is ripening: the truffle, a product of the soil that more than any other has tickled man’s fancy and excited his senses.
Truffles have found their ideal habitat, and worthy appreciation of their quality, in Piedmont, the beautiful region crowned by majestic mountains and rich in gentle hills.
Here is where the king of truffles, Tuber magnatum Pico, is found in autumn.
Markets and fairs spring up numerous and prices rocket sky-high even for “pint-sized” truffles weighing only a few grams each.
It is when legends are created like those that used to be told during the long evenings in the farmyards and in the stables and which today are written in books.
It is the magic truffle season…
Anna Irene Costa
Or so truffles are called by many in following the example set by Brillat-Savarin who dubbed it le diamant de la cuisine.
Like potatoes, truffles belong to the Tuber genus although, in actual fact, they have nothing in common since they grow in the woods like mushrooms and, like these, do not have the green parts (chlorophyll) essential for photosynthesis.
Its shape depends on the type of soil in which it formed: the harder this is, the more the … diamond will be gnarled, due to the effort it underwent to make room to grow.
It may be the size of a pea or reach considerable weights and dimensions, which will later be increased to lace the stories told by the trifulau (trufflers or trufflemen) on long evenings in front of the fireplace.
Some years ago truffles were not appreciated as they are today and farmers often used to throw them away if they found them in their fields.
Today, on the other hand, truffles are weighed the same way as gold is, and they have become incredibly expensive.
Hence the reason for the value of even tiny pieces (called frise or tuchetin in the local dialect).
The funny side to this is that a truffle is 85% … water and only 15% mineral salts.
As is often the case, truffles get their name from the Romans who called them tufolae terrae, meaning a swelling of the soil.
Contracted, these words lead to the origin of trufolae from which the English term truffle derives, the French truffe and the Piedmontese trifola.
Pliny the Elder called it callus terrae, a callous of the soil.
He was the first to mention this callous of the soil in his Naturalis Historia.
Pliny the Younger considered it one of the miracles of the soil.
The Arab physician Rhazes thought it was a vegetable, Avicenna, however, already considered it a fungus.
In a way they really are a bit like diamonds. They have that same nuance of the mysterious that demands reverence. They are the diamonds of farmlands, that withhold that mythological power of hidden treasures: a quintessence of the woods and the depths of the soil.
Carlo Levi, Ritorno a Alba, in Provincia Granda, A ii n° 3, dicembre 1953, p. 4.
They grow at a depth that may vary from a few centimetres to as much as 60 or, in exceptional cases, even 100 centimetres.
The soil must have the right chemical combination: calcareous soil is probably the most adequate.
It must be permeable, but not too much, well aerated, and the season must not be either too rainy or too dry.
The trees must not be tightly clustered so the soil can be warmed by the sun.
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