I first tried snails, or to be cosmopolitan and classy, escargot, in 2003, in a Russian restaurant in north
Jersey. I was (and still am) a little surprised to see escargot on the menu in a non-French restaurant, but since I’m always a sucker for exotic foods, I ordered it straight away. (I’ve since learned that a fair number of countries eat snails—many of the places, European and African, that border the Mediterranean, along with several Southeast Asian countries. Although apparently, is not traditionally one of them.) Russia
The snails were cooked in a garlic butter sauce, and with some sort of cheese. The result was excellent—I finished all of them with great relish. However, upon later reflection, I realized that this maybe wasn’t an entirely fair test of this exotic animal’s meat. I mean, I’d probably enjoy just about anything, even a turd, if it was cooked in garlic butter and cheese. (Just to eliminate the tension, I’m exaggerating here—don’t look for a later post where I pull a Divine and consume feces. I like trying exotic/disgusting foods, but even I have my limits.)
Happily, another opportunity presented itself. During the last several years, I’ve noticed that many supermarkets (regular, not specialty) have started stocking canned escargot, so I wasted no time. Predictably, I ignored the recipe on the label and simply opened the can and dug in with a fork. Again, I came away impressed. The restaurant-prepared snails were undeniably tastier, but the plain canned ones were pretty good, too. They have a different flavor to them—weirdly egglike. A little salt and pepper compliment them nicely.
So I was sold. Now I basically buy them whenever the area I’m currently staying in has them for sale. On one project, I even semi-forcibly had all of my coworkers try them. I went from room to room at our hotel, with an ever increasing group of people, and offered/peer pressured everyone into giving a canned snail a try. About half of my coworkers liked them, and the other half thought that they were disgusting, and cursed me for plying these mollusks on their unsuspecting palates.
One word of warning though—eating them from a can, naked, as opposed to in a restaurant has other drawbacks besides the taste. Professionally prepared snails are covered in the cheese, and butter, so you can pretend you’re eating something else if the thought bothers you. But with the canned escargot it’s obvious what you’re chowing down on, as you can see the distinctive snail flesh, leathery “foot,” etc.
To sum up, put me definitively in the pro-snail column. To borrow the punch line of the joke told by the pompous stock market official and friend of the Duke brothers in “Trading Places,” (the one whose trophy girlfriend is heavily flirting with Eddie Murphy’s character), “Look at that ‘S’ car go!”