Ryan Jacobs is an investigative reporter who has written for The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and Pacific Standard, where he serves as deputy editor and oversees the magazine’s investigations desk. Before joining Pacific Standard, he covered international crime for The Atlantic’s global channel, reporting on the largest diamond heist in French history, international carbon market scams, and the dark side of the truffle trade, among other subjects of intrigue. He graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
The Truffle Underground, Sponsored by HowStuffWorks
Beneath the glossy veneer of star chefs and crystal-laden tables, a hidden world of intrigue, sabotage, and crime undergirds the elegance of truffles: Feuding factions plant poisoned meatballs in competitors’ fields to eliminate rival truffle-hunting dogs. Crime syndicates steal research from the labs of scientists attempting to cultivate them, and unsuspecting foragers are held at gunpoint while bandits lift an entire month’s worth of income from their car trunks. The Truffle Underground has all of the makings of the next compulsively readable food exposé, a deeply researched dive into the dark origins of the world’s most valuable fungus—from the scientific mysteries of their growth to the story of the hapless French farmer who discovered the secret to cultivating them to brutal crimes in the forests and the white-collar crimes that surround this secretive industry. Through it all, a question lingers: What, other than money, draws people to these dirt-covered knobs?
This session is sponsored by HowStuffWorks.
Jim Auchmutey is an author and veteran journalist in Atlanta. He worked as a reporter and editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 30 years, specializing in stories about the South and its culture. He was twice named writer of the year by the Cox newspapers chain and was honored by the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards. His food stories have won awards from the Association of Food Journalists, the Sigma Delta Chi journalism society and the James Beard Foundation. He was a co-founder of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi and a consulting curator for the Barbecue Nation exhibition at the Atlanta History Center, which inspired his latest book.
The Truffle Underground
Beneath the gloss of star chefs and crystal-laden tables, the truffle supply chain is touched by theft, secrecy, sabotage, and fraud. Farmers patrol their fields with rifles and fear losing trade secrets to spies. Hunters plant poisoned meatballs to eliminate rival truffle-hunting dogs. Naive buyers and even knowledgeable experts are duped by liars and counterfeits. Deeply reported and elegantly written, this page-turning exposé documents the dark, sometimes deadly crimes at each level of the truffle’s path from ground to plate, making sense of an industry that traffics in scarcity, seduction, and cash. Through it all, a question lingers: What, other than money, draws people to these dirt-covered jewels?