The Cat and the Truffle

Last Thursday, we went to Bouley, my favorite Manhattan restaurant. The best dishes on the day were served with Australian black truffles and they were impressive, so good in fact, I started looking for them in the New York marketplace. It is the end of the season, so there were very slim pickings, but I did manage to secure 4 oz of trimmings from Gourmet Attitude, and the delightful Fanny. They arrived this afternoon, and smelled glorious, but the acid test is to see how my cat, Oliver reacts to them. You may recall that said cat has managed to distinguish between the good Perigord ones which he wolfed down, and the mediocre summer ones from Burgundy, which he left piled on the side of the plate.

The “trimmings” are of a reasonable size, and pretty pungent. The 4 ounces cost me around $100, a fraction of what I would have paid for the Perigords. And four ounces is a lot of truffle, so I would’t begrudge Oliver some, even if he did steal last year’s last of the crop. I quickly went to the stove and poured into a pan the fresh cage free eggs, salt, pepper and half and half. I sprinkled it with Parmesan and some chives freshly cut from the garden. This was all window dressing, Oliver’s trick is to extend a claw, and slowly remove the shaved black truffle from the eggs so carefully that there is no trace of egg, it’s all black truffle.

I shaved some truffle onto the egg, and placed on a table, and left the room. I rang the front door bell, as if I had a visitor, and could be distracted for five minutes. I came back and Oliver had not moved. I tried again, still nothing. I put some into his bowl; he nosed the pieces to the edge, but wouldn’t touch them. Then I tried adding his favorite snack, which he ate, still leaving the truffle. This was not going well; I really wanted Oliver to validate my enthusiasm, for these truffles from Down Under.

I noticed that the first truffle was all black (from New Zealand? sorry bad pun) and there were others that had significant portions of gray and white. I couldn’t smell much difference, but Oliver was more interested now, and though he ate a couple of slices, I can’t say it was with much enthusiasm. Well I will try again tomorrow, but I have to say I am a little disappointed not with the truffles which I plan to eat with pasta tonight, but yet again, Oliver proved that there is no sure thing with a cat.

“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”
―Robert A. Heinlein

Quick update. Make scrambled eggs with truffle for both of us this morning. Even though he did have his normal breakfast, he sniffs the truffle slices with interest, and eats one. Leaves the rest. Then he lies on the floor, staring at me eating mine. There is a knowing look in his eye, he is doing this to annoy me.

I finish mine, he goes back to his plate, and sniffs. Then rolls onto his back and puts his legs in the air and wants his tummy tickled. One more try and the experiment is over. Will try it at 3:00 pm, when he is hungry and vulnerable.

This is hilarious, thanks. How did they taste to your non-cat palate?

Truffles are superb. Very full flavored and pungent, which is possibly putting Oliver off. The pasta last night was delicious with just butter cheese and truffle, and today, I grated the equivalent of half a truffle into my scrambled egg and was almost crooning with pleasure.

Fortunately, I still have a lot left, and I should possibly be thankful that I will not be in competition with my cat.

Things will have to be postponed until tomorrow. Oliver, who is an indoor/outdoor cat, hasn’t had much success this season, in fact his output is about tenth of last year’s record killing spree. In other words one poor chipmunk. So letting him out today was not much of a risk.

Well he is a cat, and perverse, and of course, today he was extremely lucky. At 10:45 am, there was a mole on the terrace with no head , and at 11:38am, another chipmunk, and I will not describe what he had done to it. Let’s say it was not pretty.

Not sure what is going on, but he is a little more spritely than he was yesterday. Maybe it the truffle.

Well, it’s the final chapter, and I am afraid it does not have a happy ending. After three days of tests, it’s official, Oliver does not like Australian truffles. We tried them with eggs, melted cheese, hidden in a piece of garlic sausage and even grated over some of his favorite “nibbles”. All have been rejected, quietly but firmly. Even when he was begging part of my breakfast, when usually, he is prepared to eat anything from white peaches to curried lentils, left over from the Indian meal the night before, he made an exception of the truffle. His face has taken on a world weary look, and I think he is asking me to stop.

Meanwhile, I have received a couple of e mails asking why I am so obsessed with Oliver and the truffles. What is wrong with me, that I need to be validated by a cat? There is no simple answer to this. Perhaps in this crazy world, and the current election cycle which only makes sense on a quantum level of randomness, I thought one thing immutable. Oliver likes good truffles, and can distinguish the good from the bad. So I am left with several possible conclusions:

1: I was wrong, Oliver just struck it lucky the first two times, and wouldn’t know a prized truffle from an albatross
2. I was wrong, Australian truffles are no good.
3. I was wrong in thinking that Oliver would play fair, and he outmaneuvered me.
4. Oliver is bored, and I underestimated the truffle overload factor, after all, he has been tested four times in the last 24 months.

I leave you my faithful readers to vote as to which of the wrongs is right.

Meanwhile, completely oblivious to my troubles, Oliver is sunning himself in the bay window, intertwined with his favorite Chinese stone sculpture. His left paw is in the air, he is at peace, and there is not a truffle in sight.

Oh whew.
I thought this thread was going to be about one of Victor’s favorite pairings…

Personally I think Oliver is playin’ you.

The Chinese restaurant in my home town was indicted for serving cat meat in their sweet and sour pork. I have no doubt that I have eaten and enjoyed cat.

And you are right, he was playing me; there was a fourth part which I didn’t post because there didn’t seem to be much interest. Here it is:

Final chapters tend not to be final chapters. Ask Conan Doyle when he tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes in mid career, and the public outcry was so strong that he had to bring him back. And when your subject is a cat, and a perverse one at that, expecting stories to have a nice progression from beginning through that anti climactic middle to an even more anti climactic end just won’t happen.

After a lean period, Oliver seems to have recovered his killing skills and that also means that his diet is a little haphazard, as it now includes chipmunks, moles, and part of a baby rabbit. We have taken to leaving a shovel on the deck for easy disposal, but not before he has sampled these delicacies. He spent most of Friday at the vet. Nothing too serious, but obviously whatever he had been eating disagreed with him. Dehydrated and extremely unhappy, he slept off whatever it was, and greeted me the following morning begging for food. On the vet’s instructions I fed half a small can, which is half of his normal breakfast, and he expressed his displeasure with a loud, irritating and continuous moan. Unfortunately a good night’s sleep had given him new energy and it went on for some minutes. Think Maria Sharapova hitting a tennis ball continuously.

I escaped into another room to play with my phone and eat my breakfast, cheese on toast with the last of my sliced truffle. I think you will begin to see a pattern emerging here; last truffle and Oliver, in a particularly 'ornery mood. Did I mention that Oliver knows how to open doors; he stands on his hind legs and his front paws come crashing down on the lever. It’s a skill he learned as a kitten, and never forgotten.

The truffle didn’t have a chance. I am playing chess with a Serbian who calls himself “Superior Prawn”. In spite of his unfortunate name, he is a good player, and I become engrossed in the match, which is of course, when when Oliver strikes, eating the last of the cheesy truffles; two gulps and they are gone. He then runs into the kitchen, pauses, then puts his head round the door with a look of pure innocence on his face and a slightly puzzled smile.

So, I have come to terms finally that Oliver is not as I thought, a trufflemeister and a brilliant fungus savant. I also know know what happened. My son’s roommate once wrote a thank you letter to us after spending a few nights at our house. “Dear Nancy, Mark and Philip (not Oliver, he is a bastard)”. And a scheming one at that! Oliver made it his business to know when I was on my last shavings of truffle, and decided that the aroma of depriving me of my pleasure is far sweeter than anything Tasmania or the Perigord can offer.

Thanks for the stories, Mark.


Perhaps Oliver just decided that the Australian truffles were a better match for canned food than for moles and chipmunks.

Funniest post I’ve read in a while!
Thanks for the (ahem) “final” chapter.