Black gold. The U.S. has it in oil, the French have it in truffles! In the truffle region of France, there is a highly lucrative industry of truffle gathering and selling. It is very competitive and very secret.
This black mushroom (for lack of a better description) is collected around certain trees, normally found to be specially trained truffle dogs or pigs. After collection, they are sold from the trunks of cars in local markets with very secretive exchanges of cash, lots of cash. Hundreds of Euros per ounce.
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During truffle season they are served in restaurants in omelets and shaved on pasta. But if you ever visit truffle country during truffle season (which I have yet to do, but dream of doing this!) you can be treated to a full meal around it, from slices on top of toast to shavings on sorbet. For me, it is something that would be on my bucket list!
The truffle culture is not uniquely French, they are also collected in Italy and other places, but most people would attribute it to France before anything else. And it is the search for truffles that is the subject of a new children’s book called Coco Le Cochon.
Being a Savvy Auntie, I am always on the hunt for books for my nieces that will allow them to have a better understanding of their Uncle’s culture, so when I got a chance to review this book, I jumped on it.
Andrew Fritz wrote an adorable story about the backdrop of France that teaches children about not resting on their laurels or taking things for granted. It is a cute story with cute illustrations. I got the opportunity to pose some questions to Andrew which is graciously agreed to answer:
[MWA]: Have you lived in France or visited the specific region mentioned in the book?
[AF]: Yes- I spent a summer in the Southwest region of France where I learned how to windsurf and appreciate the French lifestyle. Cumulatively, I have spent over three years in France most of it in Paris but also in Toulon between Nice and Marseille.
[MWA]: Do you have children and did the story stem from a life lesson you taught them?
[AF]: I have two wonderful kids who love to play pranks, sword fight, and paint. They inspire me to write stories that not only they can understand but also read by themselves. This is seen in the fun rich illustrations and simplistic language.
I grew up on a small farm and had to do chores for my spending money so I wanted to infuse my kids with a similar idea of personal and independent development rather than just give blind handouts. The life earned is so much better feeling than one that is given, yes?
[MWA]: Why did you decide to write the book?
[AF]: I loved France and thought of how my friends and family have had a lot of legendary personalities in them. I also found it important to tell kids that you have to make your own place in the world with your own skills and not just expect everything to just come to them. I see many kids now growing up where they have everything handed to them without any hesitation so no effort is ever made.
This, to me, produces a landscape of entitlement and spoiled children; therefore, I thought having a fun light story that shows kids an example of what happens when you just rest on your laurels would be an inspiration.
I thought of the pig as my Mom had almost a fetish of porcine pottery growing up that was always amusing.
[MWA]: Do you intend to do a series with other lessons that include France?
[AF]: I think the series will go a bit more global next but there will certainly be another story based in France. I am currently developing a story about traveling to China and experiencing new food. My kids are having fun with what items to have listed and not as you could imagine.
Thanks Andrew for answering my questions! There you have it a cute little store, based in France, with a lesson.
My only critiques:
– I felt like there should have been a tad more French culture woven into
– I think the story should have been a little longer
My idea for the next book:
Coco should make friends with Charles (Le Chien) from the rival gang which would teach children about multicultural environments. In France, it is hotly contested whether a truffle pig or truffle dog is a better “sniffer” for finding these black (and white) pieces of gold.
A bientôt !