The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus

Why would an edible fungus deserve a whole book all to itself? That’s what caught my attention and I thought I’d give this book a try. Boy, was I in for a surprise! The Truffle Underground by Ryan Jacobs is a book you won’t want to put down.

The writing is reporter style, but don’t let that deter you from enjoying the read, and learning about an underground system of truffle hunting that results in theft, trickery, and even murder.

More importantly, don’t glide over two important pieces of information:

1. The intricate and careful art of creating the truffle by nature – an art that has yet to be completely figured out and duplicated by humans.

2. The amount of deceit that occurs in the production, distribution, and sale of this food.

While #1 above is fascinating, #2 is really important. As pointed out in the book, truffles are not the only food that people have tried to make money off of by selling fakes. The adulteration of other food products to make them look, smell and taste like a more sought out food is a practice that has been going on for at least over a 100 years that I know of, and little has been done to curtail or stop the dangerous practice. (Olive oil diluted with lower quality vegetable oils, and honey diluted with cheaper sugars are two that come to mind.)

Counterfeit food is not new, and sadly, as so eloquently pointed out in this book, even the buyers who are well versed in identifying real truffles get fooled. But remember to think of our entire food supply when reading this book. While a fascinating read about truffles, the hunting of them, and everything else that goes along with the process, it’s also a book that tells the true nature of greed. I had never imagined stealing someone else’s working dog, but apparently it happens all the time!

After reading this book, I realized that I will always have to be diligent about what I buy, by carefully reading the labels, and carefully choosing where I buy. I’m more interested now than ever before in supporting my local farmers, if for no other reason than to know how my food was grown.

Even if you are not a fan of mushrooms, this book is still a fascinating read.

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