BACK in the early 1960s, my Executive Chef and I enjoyed the high living of a lunch at The Plaza in New York City. When I stated my choice, Herr Ober leaned to whisper in my ear, m sorry, sir, but The Plaza has no truffles!" At that time, in my bucolic ignorance, I didn't know a thing about truffles, so I merely said, "Don't let that happen again!" I had my lunch truffleless, but I meditated on the matter and once back in Maine I did a piece which appeared here under the title, "The Plaza Has No Truffles !"
Lovely things happened next. My postman brought a package, and instead of leaving it in the roadside box he drove into the dooryard, hove it onto the doorstep, tootled his horn, and waited for me to open. Charles (his name was Charles) held his nose and shouted, "Better bury this right away!" The stench was overpowering, enough so that when I opened the door my executive chef called, "Shutthatdoor!" This was my introduction to truffles. Since parcel post often comes faster, the next day I got a letter fr om a stranger in Trenton, N.J., who wrote that he was Paul Urbani, an importer of truffles, and he had heard my lament in the Monitor. He felt the lack of truffles at The Plaza was to some extent his fault, and he would see that The Plaza was supplied.
The next day, Charles brought me another letter from Paul Urbani, saying he hadn't realized that truffles would spoil before reaching Maine, and not to eat the things. Not long after that, my executive chef and I sailed from Montreal for a leisurely inspection of Europe, and I asked Paul Urbani to give me an introduction to some truffler over there who would show us around. We thus came to visit Paul's uncle, Carlo Urbani of Scheggino, Umbria, Italy, who was a count and owned mountain acres of truffle fo rests. Did you, kind friend, ever know anybody who owned a thousand dogs? In Italy, they hunt truffles with dogs instead of pigs, and Count Carlo Urbani owned 1,000 truffle hounds that worked in season with his hired truffle hunters.