The first time I heard him, he scared the living daylights out of me. There have been burglaries in recent years in Tuscany so when I was woken at 5:30 AM by heavy footsteps under my bedroom window, I was terrified. I peered out of my window and saw a man in old blue trousers held up by a rope and a weather beaten leathery face which was not exactly axe murderer material but still a little unsettling since our house is in the middle of nowhere.
My English upbringing winning out over my decade in New York, I politely asked him if I could help rather than asking him what he thought he was doing at 5:30 in the morning outside my window.
It turns out our small patch of land is laden with truffles and he maintains he sells them directly to Alice Waters among others; a story I found rather unlikely except for the fact that he had heard of Alice Waters.
We got to chatting and he seemed rather indignant that I wouldn’t fence off the property from wild boars as they were affecting his business. Given that he had no right to be there in the first place and I in no way benefited from his findings, I thought it was more than a little cheeky that he should be demanding an electrified fence. Off he and his dogs went and I returned to bed.
When I got up later that morning, I found 2 rather large truffles, waiting for me in the courtyard – an offering of peace and the main ingredient for that evening’s simple but delicious Tagliolini al Tartufo. Every year since then, I find little offerings left for me.
This year, it hadn’t rained in over 3 months and the heat had been so extreme that there were virtually no truffles to be found. By now, the truffle man and I have become friendly and he’s Giorgio even though I will always refer to him as The Truffle Man. This year, with no truffles to give me, he turned up with a different kind of gift! Little did he know it was actually my birthday and Mary, the 2 year old Eurasian Eagle Owl made my day!
Get the Recipe: Tagliolini al Tartufo