Truffle Boy/ posted in: Reading Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by Ian Purkayastha, Kevin West
on February 7th 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Hachette Books
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
“Ian Purkayastha is New York City’s leading truffle importer and boasts a devoted clientele of top chefs nationwide, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Sean Brock, and David Bouley. But before he was purveying the world’s most expensive fungus to the country’s most esteemed chefs, Ian was just a food-obsessed teenager in rural Arkansas–a misfit with a peculiar fascination for rare and exotic ingredients.
The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian learned to forage for wild mushrooms from an uncle in the Ozark hills. Thus began a single-track fixation that led him to learn about the prized but elusive truffle, the king of all fungi. His first taste of truffle at age 15 sparked his improbable yet remarkable adventure through the strange–and often corrupt–business of the exotic food trade.”
This book starts with the admission that it is weird for a 23 year old to be writing a memoir. It’s good to get that out there early because it is a bit presumptious but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that he’s only 23 while reading this.
While still in high school, Ian Purkayastha started an exotic foods club to make meals with strange ingredients for people in his Arkansas school and raise money for charity. He used his vacation time to travel to trade shows and meet up with people in the exotic food community. He set up his own business importing truffles from Italy for chefs in his area. This led to a job after high school graduation importing truffles in New York. This is where he started to see the problems in the industry. As he spends the next few years starting his own business, he travels around the world sourcing ingredients and meeting the people who hunt for mushrooms in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Did you know:
- A lot of “Italian” truffles come from eastern Europe
- Truffle oil usually doesn’t have truffles in it
- U.S. chefs prize the appearance of truffles so much that the vast majority of harvested truffles aren’t sent to the U.S. market because they aren’t the “correct” shape
- There are attempts being made to raise truffles in specially planted orchards but it will take decades to see if it works
This book tries to dispel some of the snobbery around high end foods. It shows the work involved in finding and harvesting. It also points out how markets are kept artificially tight and how some countries become known as the best source of ingredients for reasons that may not be true.
This ARC of Truffle Boy is one of the prizes up for grabs this month for people who link up with Foodies Read. If you like reading books featuring food, link up your reviews with us!