Snails for your supper. Catherine Broughton is a novelist, poet and artist living in the Charente maritime.
When the weather is damp (and earlier this year we had a lot of damp) my cleaning lady, Josie, comes round to pick up snails. She lives in a flat, you see, and the grounds around the blocks of flats are already covered by other tenants picking up snails whereas she, being the cleaning lady for the Chateau, has large snail-gathering grounds at her disposal.
She arrives with a carrier bag. If I am feeling helpful I will sometimes go round the grounds with her and help her gather snails for her free-bee supper.
“Only the big ones please, Madame, the small ones are bitter and too much trouble.”
Dutifully I pull snails off gate posts and fences and pop them in to Josie’s carrier bag. It is remarkable how many there are and how large they can be.
“What do you do with them? Boil them?”
“Ah non, Madame! Non, non, non, non!!” (It’s okay, Josie, I got the first non, don’t repeat it)“You must never boil them. That is the worst thing you can do.”
“I see ….?”
“You put them in a cardboard box, Madame, a cardboard box. Not a wooden one unless it is very smooth. Cardboard.” (Got it, Josie, cardboard, got it first time, thanks).
“Then you puts flour in, see, flour. Just sprinkle it in. Quite liberally. Not so much you’ll suffocate the snails, see, but a good layer of flour. Just the flour.” (Flour, yes. Got that.)
“Then you puts in your snails, Madame, just plop them in, see, plop them in on to the flour.” (Plop them in, yes, yes …)
“They move around, Madame, and they leave a sticky ooze. A sticky ooze all over the flour.” (Sticky ooze, got it). “And you leave ‘em like that a few days, see. A few days. Then out comes your frying pan, see, olive oil – if you can afford it, Madame, which you can, but I uses sunflower, see, plenty of garlic, salt and pepper, pick the snails out of their shells, fry it up – fry it up, not too hot, careful its not too hot,” (not too hot), “and they you go ! delicious!”
“I see ….” (sounds revolting).
“Shall I come and help you with it, Madame ? To teach you? Just the first time? So’s you knows what you’s doing, see? Cause you’re only English aren’t you ….”