From the Garden to the Plate: Escargot
A popular misconception with the French is that they are cowards and failures in war. In fact, there is a funny fake Google search that gives you no results when you type in “French military victories”. In reality, they’ve won a bunch of battles and have had a pretty good army for a long time (but remember, we’re two-time world war champs). The ultimate lesson here: don’t make a stereotype unless you’re ready to back it up. And after checking out escargot, I’m ready to typecast French cuisine in a bad, bad light.
Escargot, for those who enjoy eating animals not made of slime, is a dish consisting of cooked land snails. For our readers that have a look of fright on your face, we understand. We find it hard to believe there are non-land snails out there too. Don’t worry, we’re salting the land and sea as we speak.
This dish is served mostly as an appetizer in French restaurants, and has been eaten actually since prehistoric times. As if you needed more evidence to prove how weird humans can be, even during the Roman times the dish was considered food for the elites. Nowadays, while not reserved exclusively for the highest echelons of society, escargot still inspires people to hate the mollusks everywhere.
If you do, however, ever plan on trying escargot and even dare to make it yourself, you better do it right. Chances are, you’ve seen a snail or two lounging around your garden and your mind instantly wonders, “Can I cook these suckers?” Let me stop you right there to tell you, “Absofreakinglutely you can.”
But you’re going to want to take some precautions. These snails have been eating all the insecticides, poisonous plants, and trash you left in your backyard. That’s why pro chefs will force the snails on a fast, purging the disgusting straight outta their bodies (how much less disgusting can you actually make them though?).
Then wash them, boil, remove the meat from the shell, wash again, and baked with salts, garlic, etc. Somehow, within that process, snail somehow magically tastes delicious. I’m afraid my many hours of watching the Food Channel haven’t adequately prepared me to describe why or how that takes place.
So even though it looks, smells, and probably tastes weird, I will not be leaving France without getting some. And if I do, when I get back home I’ll find a couple of snails in the backyard and make ‘em myself.
—By Vincent Tzeng. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thebardandthebears