In 1999, Giancarlo Zigante was searching for truffles in Istria, a peninsula shared by Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. What he found set a new world record: a white truffle weighing 2 pounds, 14 ounces. He had been searching for truffles for well over a decade at that point, and was involved with selling and exporting them as his primary occupation. According to a 2010 interview with Zigante, 500 grams is considered large for a white truffle. What he found was almost triple that in weight.
In a new essay for The Guardian, Zigante looks back on the circumstances of his discovery — and the surprising thing he did with the truffle. He describes going through the woods with his German pointer Diana on a freezing night, confident that it would be a productive outing. And as history shows, he was absolutely correct in that regard. Even before they discovered the record-setting truffle — one that he compares to a human brain in size and shape — the duo came across several smaller ones. Then came the moment of discovery, followed by a call to Guinness World Records.
What do you do when you have the largest white truffle ever unearthed? “I could have sold it for €1m and made my fortune, but I knew instantly that I didn’t want to do that,” Zigante wrote. “It’s great to be rich, but I felt the truffle could have more impact if it was shared.” And so instead of selling it off, he used it as the centerpiece for a memorable feast attended by 200 people, including Croatia’s president.
Zigante went on to open a restaurant, his truffle record was eventually broken, and he notes that he doesn’t go out in search of truffles as much as he once did. But that doesn’t mean he’s completely done with the hunt, however. As he says in the piece, “It’s still in my blood; it’s a passion.”
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