What on earth?!? Ok, the foodie in me is so disappointed.
Let me back up. A few years ago, I was enjoying my Asian honeymoon, and had a pizza with truffle oil at Isola in Hong Kong. What a delight; I know that truffles are like cilantro – some hate ‘em, some love ‘em. Well, right then and there, I turned into one of the lovers, and have been making stuff at home with truffle oil ever since.
I was happy as a clam, until the New York Times came out with this article. Oh no!
What Is Truffle Oil, Truly?
Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss. As the Times reported, many truffle oils sold out there don’t actually have any truffles in them. What they do have is some fake, lab-created truffle flavor.
A careful look at the labels bear this out, since these impostors will feature no truffles, but rather something like truffle “aroma”, “flavor”, or “essence”. This means that instead of any truffles or derivative thereof, what they have is a chemical called 2, 4-dithiapentane, which “supplies a fair imitation of the natural truffle smell”. So what is truffle oil? A complete fakery.
Adding In$ult to Injury
Not only do these snake oils have some fake chemical instead of truffles, but some are priced as if they were real. For example, Walmart will sell you 1.86 ounces of “Extra Virgin Olive Oil With White Truffle” for about $18, even though it lacks any actual truffles.
The Rich Miser, Oily Detective
Like any outraged Millennial worth his salt, I decided to do some in-home sleuthing and looked around in my cabinet. Lo and behold, I’ve got a bottle of Trader Joe’s “Black Truffle Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil”.
I turned it around, and, just as suspected, it does not have any truffles. All it’s got is “truffle aroma”. I don’t remember how much I paid for this, but dang it!
On the other hand, I also have a little bottle of Roland Black Truffle Oil that does indeed claim to have real truffle in it, as well as black truffle aroma:
It does not clearly say, though, where the truffle is from (I remember seeing a documentary that lamented that lots of truffle products nowadays had cheap Chinese truffles, rather than European truffles).
A Short Shelf Life
To be fair, there is a legitimate problem with making truffle oil, in that the flavor is short-lived, because it lasts only about as long as a fresh truffle. So it might, in fact, not even be worth it to pick out (and pay more for) the oils with actual truffles in them.
Summing It Up
The lack of truffles is not what bothers me. Rather, what’s got me sore is the deceptive labeling and sometimes-outrageous pricing of what is sold as truffle oil. At the end of the day, however, I can’t really do anything about it. Nonetheless, I’ll definitely take a careful look at the labels from here on out; if it’s not worth it to pay for real truffles that will soon spoil, and I’m just going to get the taste from a chemical anyways, I might just buy the cheapest stuff I can find.