ESCAPE- OLOGY Magazine Issue 1 - Page 12

Richerenches is a quiet agricultural village, in the Vaucluse, complete with the elements you expect to see a stone church, a tree-lined main street, and a few shops. However, on the 3rd Sunday in January the town is anything but sleepy when crowds gather for the annual Messe aux truffes (Truffle Mass) in l’Église Saint Denis. Since 1952, this service honours Saint Antoine the patron saint of the trufficulteurs (truffle farmers). As an outsider, you can expect to stand outside the church stamping your feet to keep warm or squeeze into la Maison Templière where the mass simulcast on a big screen.

The church pews fill with members of the Confrérie du Diamant Noir et de la Gastronomie in their black tunic robes. This Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Diamond was established in 1982 with the express mission to promote and protect the heritage of the black truffle. Instead of cash contributions, truffles are donated during the collection. The service ends with a lively parade through the village streets to city hall, where the highlight of the morning the truffle auction takes place.

The auction's proceeds are designated for the church. Food, drink and music follow the formal portion of the day, and local restaurants feature the black diamond as the star on their menus.

During the black truffle season, there are weekly markets in Richerenches on Saturdays, Carpentras on Fridays and Valréas on Wednesdays, and smaller markets in other villages throughout the week. Don’t get fooled by truffle oils and other products, unless they are from a reputable source. These oils can be flavoured with chemical concoctions. If you are buying a truffle, ask if you can touch it. A truffle should never be spongy, and it should smell like the earth.

Rabasse is the Provencal word for the truffle, although it is not common to see the word on a menu. During the season, many French chefs prepare themed meals featuring truffles. The price for these menus tends are elevated for what appears to be simple fare. However, the reality for serving truffles is to let the truffle be the king of the dish. Simple fare allows you to appreciate the natural flavour without overwhelming the mushroom.

Classic recipes include scrambled eggs with shaved truffles; roast chicken finished with truffle, or a simple pasta with butter and parmesan topped with thin slices. The key to enhancing the flavour of a truffle is a bit of fat (butter or oil), a little heat, and a hint of salt.

Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Tradition and Serving