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Friday, December 20, 2019

Book Review: The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World's Most Expensive Fungus by Ryan Jacobs, narrated by Ari Fliakos (audiobook)

I will pretty much never buy anything claimed to have been cooked with truffles again, after reading this book. Last night I was at a restaurant, saw truffles as an ingredient in one entree, and dismissed it out of hand. Most of what is sold as truffles is, if not fake, possibly stolen or fraudulent in some other way. Especially if you get it someplace like Applebee's (do you really think those truffle fries are $14 at a mass-market restaurant found every 10 feet in America and somehow that price is accurate, or the amount of truffles used in its production? Really?)

Unfortunately I had to start and stop this book a few times and listened to it over the course of a month, so the characters did not stick with me. But the book isn't really about them, so it still worked. It's about the massive amount of crime and fraud in the truffle industry--from the theft of truffle dogs to the mislabeling of truffles from Eastern European countries as being from France or Italy, to fungi that aren't truffles at all from the Middle East or the Far East, being mixed in and passed off. It's a business mostly built on personal relationships and faith, so the opportunities for crime are rampant. It's easy for immoral people to take advantage.

I must point out that the narrator has to pull off multiple different accents from several countries, which he does with aplomb (though his women's voices at times were a little eyebrow-raising.) It's a fun, casual, easy read with an undercurrent of crime throughout, but not one that fills you with fear at all--although there is fear for some of those dogs. But if you're looking for a true crime book that isn't scary, or a food book with a twist, you can't go wrong with this one!

I bought the digital audiobook from Libro.fm. A portion of the proceeds go to Main Street Books in Davidson, NC, an independent bookstore.

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