Skip to Content
awardbikeborough-icon-lockup-shavenborough-icon-lockupbuscarcaret-hollowcaretclock-4cogconnected-nodesemailfacebookflag-moonhandshakeinstagramleafletterlightbulblinkedin-2linkedinlocationmagnifying-glass-thickmagnifying-glassmappinterestpodcastprintredditstarpintraintwitterwheelchair

In praise of: black winter truffles

Mark Riddaway sings the praises of the peerless Tuber melanosporum from Borough Market’s Tartufaia

“GOOD TRUFFLES SMELL LIKE GOD’S BODY ODOUR AT THE END OF THAT HARD SIXTH DAY OF CREATION”

Image: Orlando Gili

Most of the foods that come plastered like baroque gilding over the menus of the super-rich – caviar, wagyu beef – I can take or leave. Victories of name over taste. Truffles, though. Truffles are worth every bit of their reputation. These winter truffles – brought to Borough Market’s Tartufaia from the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy – smell like God’s body odour at the end of that hard sixth day of creation, pungent and heady, while their knobbly oddness offers a heartening two fingers to any reductive conflation of the tasty and the photogenic.

My first taste of the peerless Tuber melanosporum came in Tuscany, in deep midwinter. My girlfriend and I hadn’t been together long, and the path to true love was a little bramble strewn. Even before we set off for dinner in a tiny, homely restaurant, she was complaining of not feeling well. Then, when I noticed she wasn’t drinking, I knew something was seriously wrong. Straight after we’d ordered, it became obvious from her stomach cramps and clammy pallor that I should immediately cancel and take her straight home.

But my starter was going to be fresh pasta with butter and black winter truffle, and I really wanted to try it. Forced to choose between decency and truffles, I went with the latter, feigning elaborate concern while desperately delaying our increasingly urgent exit. The story has a happy ending: the truffles were all I’d hoped they’d be – angels dancing on a few milligrams of fungus – and because my girlfriend was so ill by the time the primi came out, I got to eat hers too. Oh, and we’re still together, happier than ever, and I know now that she would definitely have made the same decision were the roles reversed. The choice between moral fortitude and transcendent truffle pasta is no choice at all.