Smuggled truffles


The China Post news staff

A well-known chef in Taipei went all the way to Italy to buy at least NT$1 million worth of tartuffi or white truffles. He brought them back home a couple of days ago. He made a blunder, however. He forgot to clear with customs at Taoyuan International Airport what he was bringing back to Taiwan. The customs office is charging him with smuggling and threatening to fine him as much as NT$3 million. If found contraband, the Italian fungi will have to be “destroyed.” Well, that’s what the law says.

All, except scores of gourmets the chef is planning to entertain, wish the law would be enforced to the letter. As a matter of fact, we hope these “connoisseurs,” many of them nouveau riches, will forgo their newly acquired taste for the sake of the multitude. Chairman Su Jia-chyuarn of the Council of Agriculture has urged people to go to wholesale supermarkets to buy cheap vegetables that are not there. Vegetable prices have jumped two to five times their normal rates in the wake of Typhoon Krosa, and when asked why the government couldn’t lower them in under two weeks, Su told lawmakers people should not shop at traditional markets. They should, instead, buy leafy green vegetables at large supermarkets for a mere NT$5 per bunch. Out of touch with the reality of peoples’ lifestyles, the Cabinet minister with the agriculture portfolio has forgotten prices are almost always lower at marketplaces and nobody can buy vegetables that cheap after the island has been hit by a tropical storm

We do not know whether Su is a lover of tartuffi, which are not as tasty as the much cheaper fungi porchini. In fact, matsudake (Armillaria matsudake), a mushroom the Japanese love so much, tastes much better. Matsudake is expensive but not as exorbitantly expensive as truffles. But they are all delicacies the masses of people whose staple is lowly green vegetables can afford.

The destruction of truffles yet to be confiscated won’t offend anybody but the self-styled connoisseurs of Italian culinary art.