Friday, July 29, 2011

Life Behind The Glamour

The Hospitality Industry seems to be the fastest growing industry in the world creating more employment opportunities than most other industries. Has anyone ever wondered what must be the life of the people from the hospitality industry?

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By Rupali Dean

The true star of Piedmont’s cuisine is beyond a doubt the Tuber Magnatum Pico, commonly known as the white truffle of Alba….Piemonte’s white gold...

As unconditional food frenzy, the hunt for the white truffle was among my top priorities on my trip to Piemonte, especially because I have enjoyed the delight that the white truffle brings. Truffles can fetch as much as 5000 euros a kilo at a connoisseurs market...but one needs to beware of heavy, clay-covered or even fake specimens for the same exorbitant price. Famed for its intense aroma and flavour, the Alba truffle is Nero (black) or bianco (white) and is sniffed out of the ground by dogs. Interestingly in the past truffle hunters used pigs to find the truffle, but the pigs that they were they tried to pig out the truffle right away and also because it is easier to train a dog. Also a dog is happy to sniff out the truffles then patiently wait for his reward, and Iam sure it must be rather difficult to wrestle a tuber away from a 300-pound truffle gorging pig…what say?


Though the best time for truffle hunting is early in the morning owing to the moisture in the air which helps the dogs smell the unique and beautiful aroma easily, but lazy I settled for a more refined hour of 10 Am. So off I, set to Roddi near Alba, all geared in attire for a jungle trek. Roddi is an area rich in all things that makes truffles i.e. oak trees, hazelnut trees, and willows galore. My guide Monchiero Giovanni was waiting for us with Leila, a cross breed white dog. Don’t get me wrong, there is no racism here; the hunting dog’s coat cannot be dark else they’ll get lost in the dark, which is primarily when all the truffle hunts take place (wee hours of the morning…remember?). The Giovanni family has been in this business since 1880 and Monchiero is the official truffle finding dog trainer in the area. Before the hunt began Monchiero shared that truffles are 90% water and are simply mushrooms that come from scattered squirrel droppings. And, all land that is uncultivated and the woods is fair game…prerequisites being a license and a dog and you can hunt on any property! By the way I also learnt that the Truffle also has the reputation of having empowered Napoleon to conceive his only legitimate son, and it isn’t a wonder why so many revere this insignificant, ugly, underground mushroom!


We walked in the woods for about two and a half hours, up and down the hills. Leila would sniff around and when she found something, she got very excited, wriggling, and wagging her tail and all of a sudden start digging passionately like a maniac. Monchiero rushed over each time so that she didn’t get the truffle in her mouth. He even handed me a pick so I could unearth the truffle. The truffle in my hand was knobbly, its flesh compact and the brownness of the coloring was veined with white. It was quite mature and exuded an intense aroma and I could smell garlic, hay, wet earth, mushroom and spices all together …absolutely pleasurable and divine. All in all Leila found truffles eleven times, all white. With mucky shoes and a hungry Stomach I moved to a nearby restaurant for a hearty lunch of fresh fried eggs with a topping of shaved truffles and “tajarin” (egg yolk rich hand made noodles) accompanied with fresh white Truffles which made it so very exquisite. Happily I hummed... “It’s been a hard day’s night and I have been working like a dog”…Truly this experience was the highlight of my trip!

Published in Sunday DNA