The unexpected things: trivia and facts about truffle

It is a fact that truffle is a product able to suggest fantasies and special imaginaries, passing from woods and rural lands to the most luxurious tables on earth, but this time we would like to talk about how truffle and its value as an Italian product are perceived around the world, also from a cultural point of view. We’ll start from some prestigious tables and names, thanks to Olga Urbani’s memories of her long-standing experience in the family company, something really priceless nowadays.

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A richness made of encounters, people, innovative ideas and tradition, a human wealth characterizing the long story of a brand whose ambition, from the start, has been to overcome the boundaries of Umbria and Italy to reach the whole world.

A world that Urbani Tartufi was able to conquer with commitment and responsibility and to which it wishes to give gratitude in return, also by sharing facts and trivia like the ones that follow.

With the contribution of Olga Urbani

That time Mohamed Al Fayed wanted to pay a pound of white truffle.

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Some moments are really special for those who have the chance to meet prestigious and public figures influencing the many sceneries of our world. I remember that they had just activated the direct flight Perugia-London and I took it to go visit Mohamed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods. My intention was, of course, to sell Urbani’s truffles and impress him, so I entered his office with a wonderful pound of white truffle.

At that time I was still at a point in my career when it was normal for me to feel emotional – I was about to meet one of London’s biggest commercial moguls and I was doing so as a salesperson – but that visit was special for another reason.

It was marked by something that today I would call the unexpected wonder of truffle in any situation. In that case, while my white truffle was obviously a gift from the Urbani family, Mr. Al Fayed tried to pay it. Seeing my surprise and my insistence, he explained to me that he thought it was too precious a gift to accept it. In the end, I managed to convince him, but I’ll never forget the meaning of those words expressing an absolute respect towards truffle and everything it represents, regardless of the territories it comes from and the social contexts it arrives to.

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From Churchill to Nixon, via Alba: how Urbani’s truffles landed on the tables of the US Presidents.

The story of Urbani’s Christmas tradition to give truffle to the American Presidents has distant origins and it is connected to the twentieth-century competition between my grandfather and his archenemy Giacomo Morra, from Alba. My grandfather was considered the king of black truffle, while Alba’s truffle hunter was, of course, the leader of the white one.

Once, Winston Churchill received a truffle from Alba, so my grandfather felt like challenging his competitor’s gesture by sending his best truffle to President Nixon for Christmas, inaugurating what is still a tradition today.

Some of the gems and stories that can be discovered by visiting the Urbani Truffle Museum

An extraordinary story telling the cultural value that a product like truffle can express, and yet, what I like the most about the origin of this tradition is how it ended between my grandfather and his Alba competitor.

Maybe some of you already knows this – since Oscar Farinetti dedicated a whole chapter of his book “Serendipity: A History of Accidental Culinary Discoveries” to these two old-timey truffle hunters.

Anyway, at some point, may years after Nixon, my grandfather received a call from Mr. Morra himself, asking him to take over his company.

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Two truffle hunters, business enemies ever since, were talking about an acquisition that would have seen one of them out of the picture in favor of the other. This is a story about values, stubbornness and respect. The negotiation lasted a whole weekend and, more than a book’s chapter, it resembled a comedy show, judging by the stories passed on in my family.

Let’s say it was quite a lively transaction, but finally Urbani managed to acquire Morra’s truffle ground, still existing today. What’s remarkable, I think, is that now, each year, Urbani and Morra carry on the tradition of giving a precious truffle to the President of the United States of America, together.

LEGAMI, the recipes of the earthFlank steak with black truffle
A bond made of magic and truffle The hunter and their dog
It/EnA magazine by Urbani Tartufi
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