Here in the Istria Peninsula of Croatia, the economy centers on wine, olive oil and truffles. (No, these are not rich folk.)

Wine and olive oil are pretty simple. People plant, grow, pick, crush mercilessly, ferment, also mercilessly, bottle, cork, uncork and eat or drink it. The grapes and olives put up no fight.

But truffles are a different animal. Er, fungus actually. They’re quite delicious but rather ugly. Taxonomically speaking, I suppose they’re in the same genus as oysters, mustard and perhaps pate. You really don’t want to know their pedigree, but I’ll tell you anyway.

They’re not grown. They’re wild. Very, very wild. And so, like other wildlife, they must be hunted.

The hunt is quite a production. People pay money to participate. Truffles are stealthy and hard to find, so dogs “specially trained” in finding truffles are used.

You probably think they use boars to hunt truffles. I did too. But here in Croatia they use these specially trained dogs. I like that. Has a pig ever been your best friend?

I’m no authority on dogs (my human friends would say dogs are not my best friend either or even casual acquaintances) but I do know there are many different brands of dogs. I suppose the truffle-hunting brand of dogs are “Truffle Retrievers.”

They must be a little like Golden Retrievers, but probably are more successful at retrieving truffles than Goldens are at retrieving gold. Every Golden Retriever owner I’ve known would say that they cost much more gold than they ever retrieved.

So truffle hunters and their truffle retrievers go out hunting for truffles. I wonder what weaponry is required besides a wicker basket. I suppose an AR-15 with a 20-cartridge clip. Because as a bumper sticker once shouted at me, “THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH AMMO!!!”

So the truffle hunter pokes under rotten logs and such until he spots a truffle. Then BANGBANGBANG!!! He shoots it to death. He blows its ever-lovin’ head off. If he only wounds it, he follows it (which isn’t difficult—they’re stationary) and then shoots and shoots and shoots it to death again and again and again until it’s dead dead dead. Taking care not to shoot his own damned foot off.

Then he points at the truffle corpse and shouts to the truffle retriever dog, “retrieve!” The dog picks up the remains in his mouth and hands it, er mouths it, to the hunter.

But the hard work is just beginning. The truffle hunter now must clean and dress the carcass in the field, quartering it if it’s a big one (over, say 1 ounce) and haul it out on his own back or maybe in a pocket.

Back at the lodge, he’ll tell tales of how the truffle ambushed him, charged him, and nearly ate him alive as fungus can do in a period of only decades, but he kept his wits about him or at least in the general vicinity or maybe in his beer cooler and was able to shoot shoot shoot and kill kill kill the beastie until it was dead dead dead.  

I know you animal etc lovers will feel a bit queasy about this description, but bear in mind that all this is for the good of the truffle herd. If they were not thinned occasionally, they would overpopulate and then die die die all by themselves. Hunting them is actually a very humane thing.

And who doesn’t like shooting things to death death death?

OK, I’ve had a bit of fun at the expense of gun owners today. But before you send me nastygrams, or shoot me, be advised that I, too, have owned guns. Unfortunately, I lost them all (are you listening ATF agents?) in a tragic boat accident where they went overboard on a lake whose name and whereabouts I can’t even remember back when Obama started making gun-taking noises.