Foraging & Cooking Snails: A Warning

A teenager’s reflection on making Escargot: Farm to Table

Don’t do it.

Disclaimer: 104 snails were re-foraged from every part of the kitchen and our refrigerator. Jackson passed his French Class and I, leaving abruptly, enjoyed a movie, more than one glass of wine, and all the carbs. Snails were treated humanely in the making of this dish.

Jackson Hiatt, French Class circa 2014
Never before have I invested this much time into preparing one dish. Frankly, what respect I had for French cooking has now dwindled to almost nothing. I want to be really clear that this meal isn’t worth the effort, and at times is incredibly revolting. However, snails have proven to be decent escape artists so I’ll grant them worthy of the French since they follow in the footsteps of retreat.

I spent at least an hour gathering snails from gardens, yards, and sidewalks, usually in the rain and at one point in the late evening where I began to have some difficulty. 104 snails later I carried out the process of washing them and placing them in a jar to starve in order to cleanse their systems of any toxins. For two days I watered and cleaned them regularly. After three days I gave them carrots to eat and then starved them for another two days. This process takes a week. By the way, they have to be washed by hand which is not a pleasant activity and is not recommended for passing the time. Once they have been purged you must place them in a container which goes into a refrigerator or freezer so they will go into a dormant state. This makes the next step much more humane.

Place the snails in boiling, salted water for 15 minutes, simmer. This both kills and cooks them. Be warned, smaller snails with thinner yellow shells or snails that have suffered damage to their shells in the past do not cook as well. They may shrivel inside the shell to the point that you can’t pull them out, or they may even explode (At least some of their organs will).

After they have been cooked something to take note of is that the water turns to a brinish green and so do parts of the snails. They and the water will give off a wretched smell. Some people say that Europeans hold their heads up high because they think they are better than everyone else. This is not true, they are simply avoiding the odor that wafts off their cooking.

Once you extract the snails from their shells you can do as you please with them. I went with dousing them with a lot of garlic butter to disguise the snails themselves. The only unique thing about this is that snails, as far as I’m concerned for cooking purposes, are living tofu. They taste like what you put on them (and you must put something on them if you wish to hold on to your earlier meals).

The texture is chewy, although not as slimy as I anticipated and is easy to swallow. To sum up why this is a bad dish; my dog made faces rather than have a sample. It may be very obvious that this project aggravated me since it was an unappealing process and left me feeling sick. Now I only hope that the snail tribes don’t dub me as a murderer.

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