Truffles in Provence
An Aphrodisiac in Provence
Truffles in Provence?
What attracts you most to Provence? The Mediterranean climate? Provencal cuisine and a rosé from the terroir? Stumbling upon Roman ruins and looking up at Medieval castles? What if I told you that Provence is also one of the treasured places in the world for an aphrodisiac?
Let me take you back to the year 1825. Imagine you are in France, living in a high society circle and inviting some friends over for dinner. What would you undoubtedly include in your dinner menu? According to « La Physiologie du Gout », a meditation on gastronomy written in 1825 by a Parisian professor named Jean Anthelme Brillat de Savarin, the truffle was essential to any respectable meal. In fact, if you were invited and the menu didn’t include something à la truffe, you wouldn’t dare tell your friends.
The Parisian professor elaborates on the truffle as an aphrodisiac. He tells the story of a well-esteemed and respectable lady who was dining with her husband and one of his friends. Her husband suddenly had a business matter to attend to and was obliged to leave the dinner party. She describes herself as being under a spell when harmless talk turned into flattering words. It wasn’t until the friend became quite explicit with his intentions that she managed to lead him to the door. The next day, trying to understand her behavior, she concluded that the truffles had an effect on her ability to stop the flirting.
The Truffle is not scientifically proven as an aphrodisiac; but it may, in some cases, make women more tender and men more kind.
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin – Physiology du Gout 1825
So, there’s one good reason to travel to Provence – not to flirt with one other than yours truly but to enjoy the advantages of your husband being kinder and your wife being more tender. One good reason to spend a honeymoon in Provence or an anniversary in Provence.
There are many ways to discover and enjoy the truffle in Provence.
Winter Truffle & Wine Tour at the Madelene – All my photos are from their winter 2016 wine and truffle tour that I did as a fam trip (familiarization trip in the travel industry). The owners are fabulous cooks and experts on wines in the Rhone region (Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Seguret, Cotes du Rhone Villages, Gigondas, Rasteau and Beaumes de Venise). It’s the perfect winter get-away in a warm and cosy 12th priory converted to an elegant B&B and retreat venue.
Cooking workshops with truffle grower – Cooking and knowing truffles with a local farmer and chef is an absolute treat for the curious and gourmet. I spent a day here learning the life of a truffle grower and the secrets and a high quality chef. Top the experience off by being immersed in the back country of Provence at a Provencal farmhouse and you leave feeling like you have become a part of Provence best kept secrets.
Truffle hunt with champagne & truffle hors d’oeuvres – Get up close to Provence by tagging behind a truffle-hunting dog and his owner. Lisa and Johann host an authentic Provencal experience by allowing your small group to walk through their farm of olive groves, vineyards and truffle oaks. The champagne & truffle hors d’oeuvres at the end of the walk complete the adventure. Everybody agrees that it’s a highlight to a trip in Provence.
There’s a lot to say about truffles and any truffle experience. Whether it be the agricultural perspective or the culinary secrets, the occasion is educational and enriching.
Here are a few of my favorite facts about the truffle in Provence.
- The black truffle in Provence is referred to as the Truffe de Périgord. The term Périgord is the botanical name.
- A truffle is a gas bomb – Doesn’t sound very good to eat when you put it that way but it does explain a bit about what a truffle really is. All those little lines you see when you cut a truffle open are the air « pipes » (the circulation of air).
- The industry of the black truffle in Provence started in the town Saint Saturnin Les Apts. You can visit the statue of Joseph Talon who, in the 18th century, started planting acorns at the foot of oak trees known to produce truffles. The host plant’s truffle fungus infected the roots of the seedling and the seedling was then transplanted to a new location. The beginning of the truffle industry.
- The truffle is an aroma! Keep this at the forefront of all your thoughts when you are cooking with a truffle. Remember that heat kills aroma. The key to culinary success with a truffle is anticipation (truffles added to cream 48 hours before using as your pasta sauce) and fat (use the full fat cream). Yes, you need fat to bring out the aroma. Just like the traditional method of capturing the scent of flowers was to soak the flowers in fat, the aroma of a truffle needs fat for the palette to experience the full aroma potential of a truffle.
When can you discover the truffle in Provence?
Winter truffle (Tubermélanosporum) – from mid November to mid March (the best quality being in January and February)
The summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) – From around May to August
Interested in a gastronomic itinerary in Provence? Your Private Provence has lots of ideas for you! Contact Emily with your requests.