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  • Writer's pictureRosanne Knorr

Trouble with Truffles in France

I prefer chocolate truffles to the dirt-encrusted ones dug up with pigs. That said, the winter truffles found in France are still prized, as evident by the lengths people will go to find them and the prices others pay to eat them.

My first experience with truffles was at Auberge du Pont de Collonges, the Michelin-starred Paul Bocuse restaurant. We were driving past Lyon and couldn’t miss the opportunity, especially since friends had raved about it; in fact, after lunch there, they decided to walk all over Lyon that afternoon to burn it off and return for dinner.

We weren’t that dedicated to eating, just curious. The reputation was intimidating—especially since we were traveling through and not exactly dressed like Michelin stars. But the maitre d' seated us at a comfortable booth, the waiters were formal but gracious, and the menu was enough to make is salivate more than Pavlov’s dog.

And there at the top of the menu was Bocuse’s signature dish: Truffle Soup, which had originally been created for the French president. Even at year 1998 prices, we could only justify ordering one to taste. [Ha! We thought it was costly then at $30 a bowl; if you want to try it now, the menu says €90 ie $104.] One taste and I was happy to let John have it. Apparently, my palate is not as “gourmet” as I imagined. However, I cleaned my plate on every other course and waddled out happily.

Unlike me, back home in the Loire Valley, some Brit friends were gourmet cooks and truffle aficionados. Every fall they moved the long walks with their golden lab to prime truffle spots in the woods. Unexpectedly, one day they hit pay dirt. They put a few in pockets then hurried home for a basket and small trowel, determined to rush back and gather a bounty.

On their return, the area had been overturned and trampled. That’s when they remembered a passing French neighbor who had cheerfully greeted them as they rushed away.

You don’t need a pig or a dog if your neighbors sniff out the truffles for you.

Paul Bocuse's "Soupe aux Truffes" under its mountain of pastry

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