In a fascinating culinary video essay for Business Insider, producer Charlie Floyd Jr. explains why the international delicacy of truffles is so very rare and so very expensive.
Luxury cousins of the mushroom, truffles are an indulgent food enjoyed across the world. But these fragrant fungi will cost you. In 2014, the world’s largest white truffle was flown to New York accompanied by a security guard and sold at auction for $61,000. Discovered in Italy, this gigantic fungus weighed almost 2 kilos. So, what is it that makes them so expensive?
Floyd also goes on to explain that the far more common truffle oil is not made from truffles but rather a chemical compound that comes from rather unexpected origins.
You’ve probably seen luxury truffle products in supermarkets or fancy restaurants, but the unique truffle flavor you recognize might not be real truffle at all. Cheap truffle oil often hasn’t been anywhere near a real truffle. Many cheaper truffle products use 2,4-dithiapentane, a synthesized compound containing one of the main aromatic components of foot odor, guaranteed to give it that “earthy” taste.