This is late January. I am sitting in a restaurant in the Place aux Herbes in Uzès, watching a pig rooting for truffles in much the same way as a British househunter looks for old stone buildings. Today is the annual truffle fair and the whole town has gone truffle-mad. People are either eating them (every restaurant is serving a truffle menu), drinking them (truffle wine is surprisingly good) or buying them (at an average price of £650 a kilo). Some diehards are doing all three.
There is a carnival atmosphere in the air. My best French friend, Alexandra, normally rather restrained, orders champagne with lunch. Truffles have a reputation for inspiring unusual behaviour. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the 18th-century epicure, describes the truffle as “the diamond of the kitchen” and in his book, The Physiology of Taste, tells a story about a woman struggling to remain faithful after dining on truffles.
I am finding fidelity difficult, too. The minute we arrived, I started to look in estate agents’ windows, wondering if the time had come to ditch our place in Pézenas, 85 miles to the west, and cast a roving eye on Uzès. As you would imagine in a beautiful medieval town situated between Avignon and Nîmes, I am not the first.