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[Eds: We are pleased as punch to have the lovely Diana blogging with us for the first time today. Please give her a warm welcome! (and leave lots of comments!]
What is… ssssnails?
During my seven-year stint schlepping plates in a Greek restaurant, I heard this question a thousand times. I could always tell the question was coming when customers, mostly tourists, ESL students and new Canadians, in the desperate search for something familiar, inevitably arrived at the “Snails and Prawns” menu item. With furrowed brows and wonder in their eyes they would ask, “What is…..ssssnails?”
Finding an answer is trickier than you might think. For starters, snails do not make any noise, so impressions are out. Come to think of it, snails don’t really do anything you can imitate; but sometimes I would try. Usually, I started with this:
Failing that, I would whip out my pen and pad and draw this:
Sooner or later, if I was lucky, someone at the table would exclaim, “Ohhhhh! Makigai!!” or, “Ahhhhhhh! Caracol!” or, “Aha! 와우!” That last one is sure hard to pronounce.
Eventually, I got wise and started a list of the various words for ‘snail’ in other languages on a piece of paper next to the cash register. Over time we amassed quite a multilingual collection.
I don’t know the word for snail in every language. What I do know is: snails make excellent vehicles for garlic butter….which is really the only way to enjoy them. I also know they are no good on pizza, trust me. Blech!
Sure, you can fancy them up; braise them in red wine or wrap them in pastry. But let’s make like the French and le garder simple. I think the best way to battle these garden demons is to subject them to a fate of Escargots à la Bourguignonne. Comme ça:
Blanket 12 snails, either in the shell or in a baking dish, with a hearty ½ cup of butter mixed with one tablespoon each of minced garlic, parsley, and shallots. Add a generous dash of salt, pepper and celery seed. Pop ‘em in a 300F oven for about 10 minutes, give ‘em a squeeze of lemon and enjoy.