Les saveurs de la terre

History of the truffle

img

It is not cultivated, and can not be reproduced: the allure of the truffle is in its mystery. 
Fruit of the earth and the dark, it grows close to the roots of the trees. The Babylonians looked for it in the sands of the eastern deserts; the Greeks and Romans were great admirers to the point of attributing divine qualities to it. Greek and Roman historians believed it was generated by thunderbolts hurled by the king of the gods in the vicinity of an oak. The tie with Jupiter created the belief that the truffle possessed aphrodisiac qualities.
Umbria has always been a land of truffles: the ancient Umbrians called it tartùfro, the "scented stone". Its use and knowledge spread throughout the peninsula. The enthusiasm the ancient world had towards the truffle abated in the Middle Ages, a time when it was believed to contain deadly poisons or that it was the food of the witches.
During the Renaissance, following the affirmation of the culture of taste and culinary art, it was revalued until it became the product of excellence in stately kitchens. In 1564 the Umbrian doctor Alfonso Ceccarelli wrote the first monograph on the truffle, the Opuscolum de Tuberibus, where he collected the opinions of Greeks and Romans naturalists and various historical anecdotes.
The king of the table
Its reputation in the meantime knew no bounds and the passing of time increased the reputation of the prince of the table, and eventually it became a cultural phenomenon. In the eighteenth century, truffle hunting became court entertainment, most likely giving rise to the custom of using an elegant animal like the dog to search for it. Its long history has the enthusiastic appreciation of famous personages, among others those of Count Camillo Benso di Cavour who used to use the truffle as a diplomatic tool in his political activity, while Lord Byron kept it on his desk because its intense aroma awakened his creativity. In 1868 Gioachino Rossini lived in Paris, but requested quality truffles from Umbria, with a letter sent to a dealer in Spoleto, signed "former music composer". Those truffles left in a hurry for the composer of The Barber of Seville and William Tell. The letter is kept in the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto museum.