Food Culture: The Snail Challenge

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Maybe you remember my last food culture post a while back – I wrote it during my time in Mexico and I shared my adventure of eating chapulines. Well, today I want to talk about another culinary experience that broadened my horizon: escargots. Yes, that’s right, those little seemingly slimy, squirmy creatures that like to carry their house around and sometimes get stepped on when they appear on side walks. Ever since taking French in high school and learning about French cuisine, I had been both intrigued and put off by the idea of eating snails. I mean, seriously – I wondered:

– how would you get them? (do people catch them in their own garden? Do you buy them?)
– how would you cook them? (do you take them out of the shell or leave them inside? Do you just stuff seasoning inside the shell and shake it or something?)
– and how would you eat them (do you suck them out of the shell somehow? Break the shell?)

Well, some of those questions were recently answered when I had the opportunity of trying snails for myself at my neighbours’ place. One of the guys living next door to me and my flatmates is from France and he was celebrating his birthday with the gang from his flat and a few other guests. We headed over to congratulate him and join the party. Not long after entering the flat, I spotted a tray full of snails sitting on the kitchen counter, apparently left over from the meal. I was so surprised! After years of wondering I felt the answers had suddenly been served to me on a silver platter. I immediately turned to our host with a bright smile and asked if I could try some. They were put back in the oven to heat up and I knew I would only have to wait a little while before finding out if I really had the guts to eat a bunch of snails.

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The moment came: I was told to take a stick and poke around inside the shell to get hold of the snail, then take it out and eat it off the stick. The snails had been bought at a store. They were cooked in the oven, still inside their shells with some herbs added and you used a stick to eat them. All my questions were answered and the most astonishing thing for me was – I actually liked them! They say you should try something seven times before deciding whether or not you like it – well I didn’t really count, but I would say I had more than twice that many snails. It didn’t go quite so well when my host proceeded to offer me some oysters…I didn’t get past trying one. Maybe next time… 🙂

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