Eventually one has to get to the topic of why the French eat snails. I have to confess I don’t actually know the reason why a little garden dwelling gastropod now rises to the status of becoming gratifying gastronomic grub. The Romans used to eat them and if I had to guess I imagine during hard times the French yokels (not intended as a derogatory term) required them to supplement their diet and get some much needed protein.
“Gav, you’re in France, you’ve got to try them! Even my ex-Aussie boyfriend gave them a nibble”, I’m told, my contortioned face rolled up into a ball of disgust. All I could mumble was, “Well, obviously he’s a better man than I”, but then another argument presented itself to me; sorry two arguments. Actually now I stop to think about it there is a third argument because Mme. Grenouille is a vegetarian who happens to love snails (living snails that is) so shouldn’t have been trying to force escargot onto me in the first place! It had also been explained to me that snails by themselves have no real taste and it is the garlic buttery sauce that gives them their flavour. Surely that in itself is reason enough? My third argument simply demanded “Why not slugs?” They’re longer, surely just as high in protein and you don’t have to mess about with the shell! Mme. Grenouille face turned a little downward at the corners with this suggestion.
A couple of years ago I was at Mme. Grenouille’s 88 year old grandmothers in the countryside, and spied some very large snail shell shaped ceramic. I hardly dared ask what they were for, but yes they were a receptacle for holding lots of cooked snails. You do see snails on most Paris restaurant menus, or if you pop into the local Picard (a frozen food store) they have great big bags of icy snails sitting alongside crêpes and the like. If you are partial to new culinary and cultural pursuits I must recommend you don’t pick your own and eat them raw for fear of meningitis (See this news story, Warning: Don’t eat slugs)
This Christmas just gone, Mme. Grenouille’s mother bought me something I can stomach – chocolate truffle escargots! Looking at the bottom of the box these are actually made by Nestle.
If you’re coming here for holidays be sure to wrap up warm and do remember keywords such as l’escargot or cuisses de grenouille (frog’s legs). If you watch this YouTube video (Maïté et l’anguille) and you’re a hypocritical meat-eater (such as myself) with a weak stomach then do not hit the play button. With that said the chef, Marie-Thérèse Ordonez, does scare me just a little bit more than the eels themselves. You may wish to add l’anguille (eel) to your vocab list.
If my posts have been a little lacking of late it is because I took a sojourn to the UK over Christmas and the New Year. I flew back from Birmingham on the 3rd January (a 6:25am flight) with temperatures down to -8C! Back in Paris it was -4C, and yesterday (6th January) there was actually snow on the streets and cars. Even now looking down into the courtyard I can see some traces of it.
Landing at Paris, Charles de Gaulle airport