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Debra Seagal-Ollivier - Truffles

It's really rather simple.

My husband, Daniel, and I were invited to a friend's house for lunch. No special occasion, other than the fact that our friend's brother, who was joining us for lunch and who'd just gotten back from Mali (where he was living as a mercenary or missionary. can't remember which), had brought along a basket full of truffles. I'd never seen truffles before and wouldn't have recognized them as such. They looked like simple clods of dirt and were about as big as lemons. I had no idea at the time—Daniel informed me later, with stupefaction—that truffles this big cost anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 francs, or around $200 to $400 PER truffle on the open market. Had I known, I probably wouldn't have continued ruthlessly and shamelessly eating them.

In any case, if you ever lost sleep at night wondering how to eat a truffle the size of a lemon, here's how: Slice it into tissue-paper thin slices.  Place each slice on a lightly toasted and equally thin slice of brown French bread (preferably poilane). Drizzle the whole thing with extremely fine lines of fruity, green olive oil. Then sprinkle the ensemble with coarsely granulated Guerande salt. Then eat.

The taste is unlike anything within the four main food groups, and thus defies description. It does not justify personal bankruptcy, I should add, but it IS memorable. A footnote here: For as long as I can remember I thought that truffles were those dark chocolate confections that one bought in Beverly Hills or Paris. Even when I learned later that certain dogs— and certain rare breeds of pigs—are trained to sniff out truffles in various endowed forests, for some obscure reason I still maintainted that they were made of chocolate. It never occured to me how an exotic strain of chocolate could grow in the earth like, say, a potato. Then I moved to France. I now stand corrected, and vaguely humiliated. But that's just between you and me.

Voila my most memorable meal. I'm sorry this is not a lavish account of a lavish meal. God knows I've had many since I've lived in France. But the truffles, well, the truffles... what can I say? Not much more, apparently.

Debra Seagal-Ollivier, debra@imaginet.fr

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