History of the truffle
The food of the gods
Plutarch ventured the rather original statement that the "tuber" was born of the combined action of water, heat and lightning. Similar theories, shared or even challenged by Pliny, Martial, Juvenal and Galen, had the sole result of generating long diatribes. Most probably their "tuber terrae" was not the fragrant truffle we are dealing with today, but the "terfezia Leanis" (Terfezia Arenaria) or similar species. They then abounded, more than today, in North Africa and Western Asia, reaching a weight of three to four kilograms; It is understandable that they were much appreciated (to the point of being called "the food of the gods"), since at that time the tubers of American origin, such as potatoes and the mills, were completely unknown.
The Tuber magnatum Pico never became part of the refined Roman recipes, even though Rome also had an Albanian citizen, Publio Elvio Pertinace. The truffles that delighted the palates of the Roman patricians were poor only in quality, because, as far as the price was concerned, this was very high. The writer Apicio in his "De Re Coquinaria" included six recipes with truffles in the VII book, the one that treated the most expensive dishes.
Meanwhile, truffle studies multiplied. Pliny the old called it "callus of the earth", while Juvenal infatuated to such an extent that "it was preferable that it lacked the wheat rather than the truffles".
The truffle avoided man's frugal tables throughout the Middle Ages and remained the food of wolves, foxes, badgers, pigs, wild boars and rats.
The Renaissance relaunched the taste of good food and the truffle set off to conquer the first place among the most refined dishes. The precious black truffle appeared on the tables of the French lords between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, while in Italy at that time the white truffle was affirming. In the 1700s, the Piedmontese truffle was considered a delicacy in all the European Courts.
The search for truffles was a palace fun, so foreign guests and ambassadors visiting Turin were invited to assist. Hence perhaps the custom of using for the search for an elegant animal like the dog, instead of the pig, used above all in France.
The Mozart of mushrooms
Between the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century, the Italian sovereigns Vittorio Amedeo II and Carlo Emanuele III delighted in organizing veritable collections. An interesting episode concerns a truffle expedition that took place in 1751 and was organized by Carlo Emanuele III at the Royal House of England. During the day, different truffles were found, but they were of extremely inferior value compared to the Piedmontese ones. Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, during his political activity, used the truffle as a diplomatic means, the composer Gioacchino Rossini called it "The Mozart of mushrooms", while Lord Byron kept it on his desk so that the scent helped him to arouse his creativity. and Alexandre Dumas called it the Sancta Santorum of the table. In 1780 the first book concerning the White Truffle of Alba was published in Milan, baptized with the name of Tuber magnatum Pico (Magnatum - that is, "magnates", for wealthy people, while Pico refers to the Piedmontese Vittorio Pico, the first scholar who he took care of his classification). A naturalist of the botanical garden of Pavia, Dr. Carlo Vittadini, published in Milan in 1831 the "Monographia Tuberacearum", the first work that laid the foundations of the idnology, the science that deals with the study of truffles, describing 51 different species . The study of hypogean mushrooms was later investigated by Italian researchers and currently in Italy, and in particular in Piedmont, the best study centers reside.