Black drain slime or the Mexican Truffle?

When you offer someone a totopo and a bowl of the exquisite, earthy, dark-as-Oaxacan clay Mexican delicacy, huitlacoche, don't expect any sighs of delight. More likely, "what is that, black drain slime?"

Huitlacoche is in desperate need of a little makeover. And it's getting it!

This unattractive (to many) corn fungus is being renamed "the Mexican truffle." And why not. pricey restaurant truffles, stingily sprinkled on pasta, are dirty black things dug out of the ground by Italian pigs.

Huitlacoche is, like beer, pulque, gusanos, and chapulines, an acquired taste. But once you have it, you have to seek it out. You will scour restaurant menus for crepes de huitlacoche and quesadillas de huitlacoche, and ask friends to bring some back from Mexico in August, prime season. You might check the freezer at the farmers' market mushroom specialty store at the San Francisco Ferry Builidng, but I promise you you will be disappointed. The proprietor will tell you they are sold upon arrival to top restaurants.

Of course there is Goya, and you can buy their huitlacoche in Mexican markets. And for most people, including me that will be just fine, because it will be a little window to the world of Mexico, where people know where their food comes from, where every portion of a plant is used for something useful or beautiful, and where even the apparently undesirable, like a fungus on an ear of corn, can be magnificent. 


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