05 February 2006

Truffle Fair in Uzes

Recently, we found ourselves at one of the most truly french events that we have witnessed so far...the annual Truffle Fair in Uzes. They had demonstrations of truffle hunting by dogs and pigs, food and truffles, truffles, truffles for sale. The truffles sold for incredible prices...800 to 1,000 euros per kilo! (a kilo is 2.2 pounds and a euro is around $1.20 each!! Therefore that all translates to around $960 to $1200 per 2.2 pounds!) For twenty euros, we purchased a small chunk around the size of a ping pong ball. It tasted and smelled like very rich soil...interesting, but certainly not worth the hype!!
The truffle hunting demonstrations were so fun to watch. The announcer let anyone who wanted to try their dog out at hunting. The best of them found one truffle and then proceeded to mark his territory on every other little sprout of a tree.
Then the master dog was sent in. He completely ignored the scents of the previous dogs, focusing so patiently on his job. He gently dug them out of the sand and held them like an egg in his mouth until they were dropped in his owner's hand in return for a small treat.
Then about thirty minutes later it was time for the pig to show off. This was no ordinary pig...he was HUGE! He waddled into the pen and stuck his snout in the sand and snorted out the nuggets. As he did this, his owner held a stick right next to his snout. As the pig found each truffle, there then ensued a battle between the trainer and the pig for the truffle. The stick was lodged in the pig's mouth to dislodge the truffle before it became a very expensive snack. The pig was absolutely maniacal about finding and fighting for the fungus. At one point, the announcer had gathered a handful of truffles in his pocket that the pig had found. The pig came running up to him and starting attacking him to get at the truffles. The owner seemed to treat this with a very lackadaisical attitude and just quietly pushed the pig off. The announcer came out very shaken with what we hope was a minor bite on his arm. I think the pig should seriously think about job retraining. His job security was sorely tested!!

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