• Otter Views: A Truffle Confused

    Otter Views – A Truffle Confused

    Tom Stevens for CST

     

    Valentine’s Day is upon us again, sending adult males spiraling down in a desperate, smoke-belching tailspin of indecisiveness. What to do? What to buy? Where to make reservations?

    The pressure starts building in early childhood with Valentine card postings in the classroom mailbox. In my day, we made our own cards with red and pink paper, sticky edible paste and frilly lacework edging. Our small, blunt-tipped scissors made intricate cuts a rarity, so the cards tended to be raggedy and oversized.

    Back then, any boy could send any girl (and vice-versa) a valentine or a packet of little heart candies emblazoned with hep-cat sayings. In much the way wealth is distributed now, the beautiful and popular kids got many valentines and candies; the rest of us got few.

    Once political correctness set in, everybody had to mail at least one valentine to everyone else. This egalitarian approach required many more cards, so the frilly hand-mades were out. The class was soon awash in identical store-bought Valentines, one fistful per child. This solved the card-envy problem, but it robbed the day of some of its mystery.

    Later in life, the rules changed again. Now each Valentine’s Day reminds men how inferior we are romantically to the French. This came up when a fellow teacher and I were commuting to school one February morning.

    “Do you know Valentine’s Day is supposed to be the most stressful holiday for men?” my buddy remarked. “I read that somewhere.”

    I slapped my forehead. “Valentine’s Day! When is it?”

    “This Friday.”

    “Aaaaagggghhhhhh!!!!”

    “I rest my case,” he said. “But don’t worry about it. Just buy your sweetie a sappy card, a box of chocolates and some flowers. They always go for flowers.”

    “But it’s Wednesday already,” I said. “The good stuff will all be taken.”

    “I know,” he grinned. “I got it.”

    For an adult male, Valentine’s Day can indeed be stressful. It’s hard work finding stand-up roses and really good truffles. I mentioned this to my carpool friend.

    “Truffles?” He recoiled slightly. “Aren’t those the fungus thingies pigs root up with their snouts? I’d be verrry careful giving those to my Valentine.”

    “But they’re rooted up in France by French pigs,” I explained, “so it’s all very romantic and expensive, just what women love. Properly presented, a fine French truffle is a Valentine triumph.”

    He frowned. “I’ve never heard about this.”

    “You’re a history teacher,” I shrugged. “You don’t get out of the library much. But I’ve been to France, and I can tell you, there were truffles all over the place. The French don’t even give chocolates on Valentine’s Day.”

    “They don’t?”

    “Just to the pigs,” I said. “Only after eating chocolate are the pigs willing to root for truffles. But it has to be French chocolate. That’s why truffles are so expensive.”

    His frown deepened. “How expensive?”

    “I don’t know,” I admitted. “Hundreds, maybe thousands of euros per kilo. All I know is, I never see truffles in Walmart for Valentine’s any more. These days, you practically need a truffle connection.”

    His voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. “Do you . . . know anyone?”

    “Actually,” I confided, “I have some French truffle myself, left over from last Valentine’s Day. It’s not much – powder, mostly – but it’s really good stuff. Since we’re friends, I’ll let you have it. Just don’t tell anyone where you got it.”

    His eyes widened. “Thanks! But how do I use it?”

    “You sprinkle it into your sweetheart’s cooking,” I explained. “It’s like a stealth spice – a savory seasoning that adds passion to your poisson and romance to your ragout.”

    “You have been to France!”

    “Oui, oui.” I shrugged in what I hoped was a worldly way. “And while I was there, I found out why French men are considered the most romantic men in the world.”

    “Why?” he asked. “Because they have truffles?”

    “Non, non!” I said. “It’s because they cook.”

    The car fell silent for a few minutes as we considered this novel idea. I know many men cook, but it has always seemed an unappetizing prospect to me. I was raised to believe that real men should be out of the kitchen; out buying chocolates.

    “They do the dishes too?” My friend asked somberly. “And dry, and put away?”

    “That’s what I hear.” We fell silent again, gloom deepening around us. “And even worse,” I warned, “a lot of French guys are moving to this area. I’ve seen their bread in our bakeries; their braids on our women. Our green beans are even being cut special for them now. It’s worrisome.”

    “So, Friday is Valentine’s Day,” he sighed. “How do I compete with all that?”

    “Take your sweetie to a French restaurant,” I advised. “Order the truffle.”

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 24, 2014

    Topics: Otter Views

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