Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Your truffles or your wife!"

Those of a certain age will remember the famous Jack Benny skit where the notoriously tightwad comedian was approached by a mugger who demanded, "Your money or your life!" Benny replied, "I'm thinking! I'm thinking!"

In his book Provence A-Z, Peter Mayle tells a story that reminded me of the Benny skit, with a twist: "Your truffles or your wife!"

A Provence landowner's property had been frequented by a truffle poacher in the dead of night, relieving the landowner of thousands of dollars worth of the incredibly valuable fungi. One dark night, the landowner ventured into his forest with shotgun and flashlight and caught the poacher—along with his wife and trained truffle-sniffing dog—red-handed. Encouraged by the shotgun muzzle in his ribs, the poacher confessed to having stolen many kilos of truffles from the man's property. But he had money at home which he would gladly return with if they could agree on an amount. They agreed on 100,000 francs, and the poacher left, leaving his wife as a hostage until he returned.

Of course, the poacher never returned and was never seen in the region again. And the landowner realized his mistake. He should have demanded that the poacher leave his dog as hostage instead of his wife since, in Provence, a truffle-finding dog is worth its weight in gold.

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