Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"They Actually Eat That:" Truffles.

Forgive my lateness. Had to stay up at campus a little later on Wednesday, but don't worry, I would never miss a chance to show you all some seriously weird food. This is a little bit hard during Breed Week - whoever would admit that certain breeds are good for food? Even if they are, most of them are not remotely weird. (The Belgian Blue is an obvious exception.)

So this is something different and tangentially-related to domesticated animals.


Connoiseurs of my blog have probably heard of the fungi called truffles. Besides being a delicious chocolate treat, truffles are a type of fungus usually found near the bases of various trees, particularly oak, beech, hazel, and pine. The European black and white truffles are delicious, but very, very expensive. Chinese truffles are often used as a cheap substitute.

Truffles are not domesticated, per se. They can be farmed (Australia has had the best luck), but are not sufficiently differentiated enough from their wild counterparts to be considered breeds. Truffle fields return to wildness easily, sending the search for easy truffles back to square one. These things are so hard to find that humans need special animals just to discover them, thus explaining the price tag...

...even though piggies can find them no problem.

The classic way to find truffles is to get a healthy sow and take her out for a little walk. Since truffles smell like a horny boar's saliva, the pig's sensitive nose will pick up the scent. Sows can smell the fungi up to three feet underground. We can only imagine that her desire would be doubled if she herself wanted some lovin'. As one might expect, pigs do sometimes eat the truffles. If your Playboys came with a hamburger inside the pages, you probably would, too.

Japan has the right idea.

Of course, pigs are not the only animals with a keen sense of smell. Dogs, specifically the Lagotto Romangolo (Romagna Water Dog) can also be trained to sniff for truffles. The Lagotto breed has been in the business for only 100 years, which is a short time compared to ancient Roman truffle hogs.

You can also tell it's hypoallergenic because of its poodle-ish fur.

For the record, yes, I have actually eaten truffles. If you want to try some good ones, they have truffles in everything in Piazza Navona, a certain square in Rome. They put truffles on pizza, in fettucine, and have a godly gelato called tartufo- no real truffles involved, just using the name. Truffles are delicious, but I personally would not go into any pig sties after eating them!

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