Gourmet this month takes a journey to the magical kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the only thing hotter than the desert sand is the delicious taste of native desert truffles known as fagaa.
Spurning the help of nonhalal beasties such as pigs, Saudi Arabians rely on a seasonal swarm of (also delicious) locusts to herald good truffle-hunting weather. Then it’s off to the northern desert, where the fungi are dug from their hidey-holes—marked by subtle signs of cracked soil—with sticks.
There’s a dramatic contrast between Saudi Arabia’s austere nomadic past and its complicated petro-dollar-glutted present. This piece, by a Middle East correspondent for Newsweek International, leans on an indulgent celebration of the former at the expense of the latter. But hey, we’re not reading Gourmet to learn about Islamic fundamentalism, virtually enslaved guest workers, or Sunni-Shia regional schisms. We’re here for the food.