18 January, 2009

The blessed truffle.

The most well-known truffle market of the Gard (in the Languedoc) takes place in Uzes. While the Perigord in the Southwest is arguably better known for its black truffles, it is actually the southeast--primarily the Provence and the Languedoc--which produces by far the lion's share of French truffles. (France as a whole accounts for nearly half of the world's supply of this costly fungi, the tuber melanosporum).

Uzes remains one of my favorite cities to wander--in the off-season. The first duchy of France, Uzes has had a long, extremely wealthy past that can be traced to the Romans. In fact, the 17th century chapel in which the remains of the dukes are buried was built upon the remains of the first century temple honoring Octavian Augustus, the first Roman emperor.
I arrived early in Uzes in order to attend mass at Cathedrale Saint-Theodorit. While I am not a Catholic, I am incurably curious, and this was no ordinary mass: there was to be a benediction of truffles involved.With pomp and pagentry, some of the finest truffles were carried to the altar. There was a large choir, and the priest made interesting parallels and invoked lessons from the life and harvest of the humble, precious tuber. Afterward, we all gathered behind the truffles to slowly make our way toward the main square where the auction of the blessed truffles was to be conducted (with proceeds to go back to the parish).
Mr. le President of the trufficulteurs du Gard waits for the blessed truffles, empty basket in hand and daughter by his side.

The auction was competing for visitors' attention with the preparation of the giant brouillade aux truffes (scrambled eggs with truffles--didn't it sound more special in French?) This involved a gigantic saucepan that was stirred simultaneously by four strong men over a bonfire. For those with higher culinary expectations, a number of Michelin-starred chefs had prepared mouth-watering menus. The rest of us just wandered from vendor to vendor, eyeing every possible culinary permutation of and/or literary treatise on the truffle.

You can buy special truffle-delivering oak trees (certified--of course--as having been impregnated with the fungus), and products to help train your dog in the art of truffle-sniffing. You can watch demonstrations of truffle-sniffing dogs (no pork was present). You can buy all the requisite tools to harvest and prepare truffles--all sorts of hand picks, brushes, mandolines, etc.
Or you can get a little light-headed with the dense, enveloping aroma of the truffles, seek out a slightly dirty, fresh treasure (of a quite modest size given the cost), find an empty conserves jar at home, tuck the little black purchase in with five new eggs and close the lid tightly.

We'll be having our own little brouillade in a few days, once that truffle has infused the eggs, through their porous shells, with the deep dark essence of itself.

1 comment:

  1. Hello! Very interesting! I'm taking the liberty to use your account on my blog (www.yourmasinlanguedoc.net), with all credits: I hope that acceptable. If not, please tell me ASAP: pierre@rezzonico.fr. Best, Pierre


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