French Truffle Market

In January 2003 we visited the weekly truffle market at Lalbenque near Cahors in Southwest France. Held every Tuesday afternoon from December to March, this is the premiere truffle market in the Quercy region. More on the market can be found (in French) at the Lalbenque tourist office web site.
 
Though the market doesn't begin until 2:30 PM, vendors begin lining up along the main street of Lalbenque around noon or before.


(Click the pictures for larger views.)
 

Until the market opens , a rope separates the sellers from the buyers. But that doesn't prevent conversation back and forth, inspection of baskets, smelling the truffles' powerful aroma, etc. We even had a TV crew recording the action. One elegant, nattily-attired gentlemen in the crowd we dubbed "the film director." (We noted later that he purchased several baskets.)
 
We estimated there were well over 100 vendors, who came in all shapes and sizes, providing quite an array of classic "types."

   
 

While waiting for rope to drop, many of the buyers enjoyed truffle omelet and other delicacies at the Lion d'Or and other local restaurants. Then, at exactly 2:30, the street became a mob scene. Buyers would inspect the contents of a vendor's basket, with much animated discussion of quality and quantity. Then buyer and seller together would repair to the official scale (only one for the whole village!) in front of the Mairie to determine the weight and agree on a final price. It appeared that baskets generally were between 1 and 2 kilos, and that the going price was around 300 euros per kilo.
 

 
Before long, the distinct aroma of truffles had filled the entire street. Overall, it was a fascinating people-watching experience, and we heard no English spoken the entire time!

-Allan & Diana Colby