Escargot: a French delicacy I refuse to eat


 If there’s one thing France is known for – apart from the Eiffel tower and piano accordions – it’s the food. Baguettes and croissants are mandatory in any French caricature. Wine and cheese are a national pastime. Here in Melbourne, eating at a French restaurant is guaranteed to be a fancy (and expensive) experience.

A couple of years ago, I bid my friends and family goodbye and headed to France for six months. There was an expectation that I would (among other things) engorge myself on the variety of foods the country had to offer and report back on my progress.

I went out as often as I could to explore the wonderful world of French gourmandise. I tried coq au vin, ratatouille, croissants, pain au chocolat, crêpes, macaroons, baguettes (I also, on one occasion, played baseball with a baguette and a few Easter eggs. It worked out rather well). As promised, I called my friends to let them know what they were missing out on.


“That’s great,” my best friend cut me off during a long, detailed description of exactly how good the chicken sandwiches at the nearby boulangerie were. “But how’re the snails?”

We’d had this discussion before I left. She’d asked me to try them. I’d very emphatically told her I wouldn’t. Apparently she thought I’d been joking. Every time someone brought the topic up, I’d have to sit through anecdote after anecdote about weird food experiences. Usually along the lines of someone going to Asia and eating fried cockroaches on a stick (yes, that’s a thing).

When I got back home six months later, I was greeted with hugs and a chorus of “You didn’t try snails? You idiot! What a waste of a trip!”


Never mind that I had climbed a mountain in Marseille, seen the Mona Lisa in Paris, and taken a tour of the vineyards in Bordeaux. I hugged the statue of Anne Frank in Amsterdam and rode a camel in Marrakech. But I had not eaten escargot. My trip was wasted.

In my defence, I did seriously consider the idea for about twenty minutes. I went to the Internet to find out what I could about the dish and the preparation methods.

First, snails need to be purged, otherwise they’re not safe to eat. Snails are starved for just under a week, during which they’re gently washed to help make them clear out their intestines. Then they are either salted (you can throw the salt on them or put them in a container full of salt, it’s up to you) or boiled in salted water. This makes them disgorge themselves, which means you’ll see them release a murky sort of foam. When they stop releasing it, you’re good to go.


It’s up to you to decide what to do with them after that. You can go traditional with garlic and butter, or wine, or toss them in a pasta, or use them to stuff vegetables. You can eat them plain if that’s what tickles your fancy.

It’s not that I have anything against eating escargot as a concept. If you like them, well, more power to you. But where I grew up, snails were a backyard pest that left long trails of shiny slime everywhere. We used to have a box of those blue pellets – snail poison – that we sprinkled all over our garden to keep the snails out of our tomatoes. To me, snails will never be food, no matter how much butter they’re drowned in.

Have you tried escargot? What did you think?

Image credits:
 @Doug88888, on Flickr
2. chocoooloverrr, on Flickr
3. sughr, on Flickr
4. venetia koussia, on Flickr

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Hella Ibrahim

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  1. clairegomolla Aug 21, 2012 at 11:22 AM - Reply

    As a Frenchie, I must admit the first time I had to try snails, I was quite reluctant. However, the recipe with butter and garlic is lovely and I always appreciate it during Christmas and New Year celebrations. I suggest you to try to play baseball with them and a baguette from a mountain in Marseille the next time, great experience !

  2. Hella Ibrahim Aug 21, 2012 at 11:24 AM - Reply

    That sounds like a great idea, except I don’t think anyone else would play mountain basesnail with me.
    Why Christmas and New Year especially?

  3. clairegomolla Aug 21, 2012 at 11:31 AM - Reply

    It’s traditional, we eat snails mainly for celebration and especially these ones. You can find snails in grocery shops but it’s not really usual to cook them outside of special occasions. Ah you’re right if you’re in Marseille I suggest you to play snailpetanque with a fresh Pastis.

  4. anastatia Aug 21, 2012 at 1:15 PM - Reply

    I loved this article! I thought the graphics and desciptions were so well done and you should be commended on making such a bland subject entertaining, it is much appreciated while I’m bored at work:)
    two thumbs up

  5. Sophie Dugourd Aug 21, 2012 at 2:58 PM - Reply

    Ah ah I love the idea of snailpetanque Claire !

  6. Charles Trégouët Aug 22, 2012 at 1:54 PM - Reply

    When I was young, I used to play with the snails that I found in my primary schools. They were racers, and I bet the only few cents that I had on my favorite snail-racer. Unfortunately, I never won any race…

    Now they are in my plates. I have my vengeance. I have finally won against snails. Haha!

    Great article btw 😉

  7. Celine Mangiardi Aug 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM - Reply

    I’m French and I never ever tried ‘escargots’. And it will never happen ha ha

  8. Tom N. Dec 31, 2019 at 11:35 AM - Reply

    I was squeamish the first time I had them. What helps is a really good drink you like. For me, whiskey. But whatever you like is the way to go. Wine? Fine. So actually you will find the garlic and butter variety with a small piece of bread is actually very yummy. Start eating them and you’ll want more. I even got my mom to try them, but I didn’t tell her they were snails. It’s escargot. yum.. Do try the garlic and butter variety.

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