Monday, November 06, 2006

Once you go white...

I am writing this post under the influence.

On Saturday evening in a shady corner of Amandola, Michael and I met a guy -- let's call him "Nello" -- for a rather sizeable transaction. He was dressed in camouflage fatigues, wore a blue knit cap and four-, maybe five-days growth. Between us, Michael and I were sporting maybe 6-hours of stubble. We'd been eyeing Nello's cache for a few minutes, but we lacked the confidence to pounce. We waited and waited and waited, mainly for the crowd to thin out and move on. We were buyers. We meant business. "Not the black stuff", we informed him by way of introduction. "The good stuff. Bianco". He pushed forward a scale and rattled off prices, prices, he boasted, that were below the going market rate. 150 euros per 100 grams (more pricey than gold) is what they charge in the big towns. Nello could score us a better deal, he assured. He held up the goods. Pungent. Fungal. Sold.

48 hours later and I am hovering a few feet off the ground. Having finally ingested my purchase this evening, I'm having a pleasant wave of flashbacks. There's definitely a lingering sense of euphoria, still some light-headedness. And, yes, I love you all.

My drug of choice? The white truffle.

I am also feeling a bit nostalgic. (Could I be coming down?) It will be another year before I get the chance again to eat nature's most precious tuber.

While we ate our tagliatelle dripping with while truffles this evening, we all wondered what this meal would cost in the most lavish cities of the world (the assumption being only lavish cities ever source the rare white truffle). In New York or London, Tokyo or Paris, I'd venture a guess that a single, overly garnished and truffle-deprived dish would run a diner more than the five of us paid for the entire meal -- last night's meal too, and probably tomorrow night's as well. In case you're wondering, I handed over a 30-spot for our hunk of earthy, pungent goodness, but that's not important.

The important part is that Amandola is on the map, one of the few places on this planet where the mysterious white truffle grows in select sub-terranean hollows. A year ago I went hunting with tartufai and we came back with zesty summer truffles, enough to stink up our apartment for days and put exceptional pasta dinners on our table. But the true king of the tubers is the white goddess. Tartufo bianco. As Xtina says, "once you go white, there's no going back." It's an expensive habit to kick. The good thing is they are only available in late Oct and early November. The odor usually fades by Spring.

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