Days gone by, the cook Carlos Torres He approached our table to grate a black truffle (T. Melanosporum). Its aroma was so intense that I could not contain the praise for that mushroom that, when it passed through the mandolin, slipped in very fine flakes on a casserole full of mashed potatoes. Enthusiastic I manifested myself again in the same way when I tried it in the company of his superb hare civet. A few minutes later at an adjoining table in the restaurant The good life where I was, a diner was upset: “This truffle neither smells nor tastes”, he told his table companion.
It was not the first time that, throughout this winter, in the middle of the season I witnessed similar situations. The week before, at the restaurant La Fonda Lironda I heard the comment that was circulating aloud around a table of young people. It came about with the leek cream with poached egg on which the cook Hugo Munoz grated us black truffle. For me a splendid set, for them a reason for disappointment for the same reason.
Beyond the respect that trials in which the sense of taste and the subjectivity that accompanies it come into play deserve, it is clear that we are faced with a generalized confusion.
“It has happened to me a thousand times,” he told me Hugo Munoz when I related my experiences. “The generic black truffle confuses. Some prefer synthetic truffle oils that have invaded us for a long time. I find it disappointing to select ripe pieces of optimal size and that my clients give me negative comments due to their lack of aroma ”.
More bluntly, as usual, he replied Juanjo López, of La Tasquita: “Truffles are victims of the democratization of the kitchen. In a world dominated by ignorance, artificial flavors prevail. Many false truffles are entering Spain Morocco and from other places, wood shavings aromatize with synthetic essences in an exercise of deception ”.
Nor could he stop talking to Javier Acedo, manager Alonso truffles, provider The Celler de Can Roca and many Spanish restaurants. “I tell you one of the anecdotes of this Christmas” he told me. “Among hundreds of orders we have only had setbacks with some individuals. At the end of December a customer called me upset to tell me that his truffle neither smelled nor tasted like he expected and that he was going to return the piece already started. A 50 gram truffle with a perfect ripeness point, as this season has gone early. Apparently, at a tasting with friends, a cook had convinced him that it tasted like nothing. We tried it together and I asked him right away: doesn’t it taste like nuts? I tried to explain to him that the problem was with his palate, that he identified the real truffle with something that is not. That Tuber Melanosporum It is so subtle that it neither smells nor tastes like what we sometimes have registered in our memory due to artificial essences. His intransigence was such that I could not convince him. The case is repeated frequently. Some consumers look to the black truffle the flavors they have discovered in truffled pizzas or in plates of the fast food chains bathed with laboratory aromas. And when they do not recognize it, they are disappointed. We face an important challenge, educate the taste buds of consumers. The Tuber Melanosporum They neither taste nor smell like fungi, mushrooms, or tubers, their aroma is different from everything ”.
For what reason are synthetic truffle aromas that have been perverting taste for some time, not only in Spain? Such a question led me to Italy in 2012 to visit the factory Appenino Food, company where I knew in depth a situation that, except for error, has hardly changed.
Your director, Luigi Dattilo, he described to me how these aromas are achieved. “There are two systems: 1) What we call Identical Natural Scent comes from two molecules, bismethylthiomethane Y tartufimetilio, present in white truffles. How they both meet also in some vegetables, we obtain them from cabbages and artichokes. Good essences because our body produces the necessary enzymes to digest them. 2) What we specialists call Purely Synthetic Aroma derives from formalin, petroleum molecule product that ingested in large quantities is fatal to the human body. It is a highly volatile molecule with an intense aroma, much cheaper that costs 30/60 euros per liter, while the Identical Natural Scent it fluctuates between 270/320 liters ”(2012 prices). My article –White truffle oil and the interests of multinationals– still valid after seven years.
Just when in 2018 Javier Acedo had just created Alonso truffles, I asked him about the pernicious synthetic oils on the rise: “Italians invented them to train dogs that are used to harvest white truffles which is what these essences smell like. See what this jar says: “Oil for the training of truffle dogs”. This bottle costs 15 euros and with this amount I can “trufar ” enough liters of oil. Do not forget that truffles have thermovolatable aromas. In naturally truffled products, their aroma disappears above 65ºC and below -3ºC. That is the reason why synthetic oils are used, with aroma fixers, most derived from formalin. Sadly, the nightmare spreads. Brands of cheeses, French fries, Italian mortadelas, flavored risottos and even Iberian sausages have fallen into the temptation to perfume their products with artificial essences ”.
To further complicate matters, in winter season the Tuber Melanosporum matches three other black truffles –TThe product is the winter; ischial tuberosity Himalayan indigo y-, the majority imported, which neither taste nor smell, especially the Asian ones, of lower price, lacking in gastronomic interest, which are used as substitutes in pure fraud. If someone shows interest in distinguishing the authentic from the false, I recommend this article.
An absurd situation, as well as paradoxical, to the extent that our country with 12,000 mycorrhized hectares, whose plantations continue to grow constantly, is the first producer of black truffle (T. Melanosporum) of the world. “More than half of the black truffles consumed in France come from Spain“, he commented Luigi Dattilo at the time. Only in Teruel is located 30% of the cultivated area of the entire planet.
Yet we are victims of an obvious gustatory contamination. We have been late joining the consumption of black truffles whose characteristics we had not registered, while synthetic aromas, much cheaper, which continue to distort our perception of truffles, appeared in parallel.
What price scale are we talking about? At this time, at the end of the season, in full flavor and aroma the Tuber Melanosporum They range between 500 and 700 euros per kilo. Even less, according to some cooks. Let’s leave it at 500 euros. At that cost, a 50 gram truffle would have a price of 25 euros, more than enough to illustrate four servings of mashed potatoes, fried eggs with pasta, pizzas or some game. That is, six euros per plate, more or less. If we replace the mushroom with a few drops of synthetic oil the cost could be reduced to considerably less, perhaps to euro cents. Does anyone dare to predict the future?
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.