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Home > Truffle guide. White & Black Truffles.  >  Truffle lovers and haters: that's all chemistry

Truffle lovers and haters: that's all chemistry

People react to truffles in different ways. Scientists are approaching the answer to the question of why it happens.. You have just paid a small fortune for one of the greatest delicacies in the world: truffles. The waiter ceremonially grates a few grams over your pasta. All around you are gasping of admiration. But you don't feel anything, and your companion complains that this ridiculously expensive mushroom stinks.

This is a fact - people react to truffles in absolutely different ways. And scientists are getting close to the solution of the mystery of why it happens. Almost 25% of the population don't feel the smell of androstenone - the chemical that contributes to the brand truffle musk aroma (and drives female pigs sexually ecstatic). Another 40% of people are extremely sensitive to androstenone: they say it smells like rotten wood or sweat. The rest of the population likes its scent.

All this turns white truffle season, which starts at the end of September and lasts for eight weeks, into a complicated period for chief cooks who are paying 1,600 dollars for a pound of truffles this year. Mark Alba, chief cook of Food Studio in Atlanta, says he has heard everything - from complaining about foul smell of truffles to exclamations that after trying truffles one wouldn't regret to die.

Researchers from University of California at Berkeley are trying to find out what causes different levels of androstenone perception - individual properties of noses or the way in which the brain processes aromatic signals, scientist of Berkeley Noar Sobel notes . Other chemicals, too, participate in the creation of unique truffle aroma, but it seems that reaction of people to this mushroom reflects their reaction to androstenone. "If there was no androstenone in truffles, there would be no mysteriousness",- perfume industry consultant Avery Gilbert points.

It is this mysteriousness that has last week enticed a financier Dandrige Woodworth to throw away 110 dollars for spaghetti with truffle crumbles in Cafe Boulud in New York. He liked the "earthy and piquant aroma", he confesses. But the same aroma feels repulsive for Rosalie D'Amico, a retiree from Woodinville, Washington State. She can't stand "obsessive forest taste" of truffles and truffle oil and every time questions waiters if these are part of the dishes she orders.

It can seem strange but it is almost impossible to meet a truffle hater among cooks and kitchen workers. Last year scientist Tim Jacob and his colleagues from Cardiff University in Wales have published a report on the research in which three times a day the test subjects inhaled androstenone in quantities approximately equal to its content in truffles. At the end of the week those test subjects who didn't earlier recognize any smell started to feel "honey-straw-earth-like, quite nice smell", - Jacob says. Perhaps restaurant employees deal with truffles often enough to feel their aroma and enjoy it.

An advice: it you feel enticed with the idea to pay a few hundred dollars for a dish with truffles, visit a deli store and ask to smell a truffle or a high-quality truffle oil. If you don't feel anything or if you feel the smell of rotten wood, urine or sweat - better save your money for another delicacy.


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