Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I grew up thinking snails were something to be crushed by my mom's clogs in the garden. Intentionally and with twisted glee. I can still hear the gooey CRUNCH. They were always eating her vegetables.

"Dash, do you want to eat some snails? They're mollusks. Just like oysters."
"Nope. Snails live in the dirt. They're DIR-TY."
"Okay, I"ll find you some clean ones."

I told my husband I was headed to the garden to collect snails for dinner. Good thing he talked me out of it. You can eat garden snails (Helix aspersa) but first you need to purge the snails' systems of toxins by feeding them healthful snacks like cornmeal and lettuce. For a few weeks. Otherwise you risk eating snail bait, pesticides, and whatever else they've been nibbling on around the neighborhood. The final cleansing step is to boil the heck out of them to remove the mucus.

So I tried to buy some fresh and purged snails. I called six markets and EVERYONE laughed at me. It's like I was asking for horse meat. I finally tracked down some frozen Roman snails (Helix pomatia) that were already cleaned and packed with a parsley and garlic compound butter. Roman snails have much harder shells than garden snails and they're the ones most commonly farmed and eaten. And, as the butcher pointed out, they're called ESCARGOTS, not snails.

We still call them snails around here.

Dash filled my favorite bowl with eight of these creatures and we admired their three-dimensional spiral houses. Bella started to cry when Dash showed her the snails. They offended her on every level.
I tried to excite Bella with some dramatic details. These hermaphroditic gastropod mollusks stab each other right before copulation with love darts. The dart is covered in a substance that makes the incoming sperm more likely to survive.  I modified a bit. "Bella, before they have babies they throw knives at each other made from calcium carbonate."

Dash said, "They love each other and they stab each other? That's not fair."

I threw the snails under the broiler. Bella slammed her door and started making a pot holder.

Dash, on the other hand, got himself a small fork and started digging for some flesh. These little buggers are hard to get out. I can see why there is a special tool out there called an escargot fork.
"Mama, do the snails have faces when they're dead?"
"I don't know.  Let's look."
"My love, I don't see a face."
I guess that was what he wanted to hear. In it went.
"Yum. Okay, mama. You eat one."

Holy shit. It took some strength. Like when you don't want to go into the freezing cold pool but your child really wants to swim. Or when your child is sick in the night and you hold them in the most uncomfortable position for hours. You just do it. I put a snail in my mouth. I gagged. I chewed. I gagged. I smiled. I gagged. And then I swallowed.

Dash crawled into bed with me the next morning.

"Giddy up, aaaarrrrrr, sssssssssssss."
"Dash, what are those sounds?"
"I swallowed a cowboy, a pirate, and a snail."

We got out of bed to draw some innocent pictures of mommy and daddy snails firing off love darts.


  1. ah! I am gagging right along with you, haha. What did it REALLY taste like? What did he think? Oh dear.

  2. I think I've seen them at Berkeley Bowl West... frozen, but I remember my son pointing out a package filled with snail shells.

  3. These last few posts have left me simply in awe of Dash! I can hardly get my 4 year old to eat a vegetable.
    Amazing little dude!

  4. In honor of my Dad the biologist,(who would love to give you a hug for sharing the world of wonder with your people) I extend a hand for a nice high five. I was turned on to snails and their particulars by my Daddy at around the age of 5. I turned my babies on to them in turn. High Five, Snails.

  5. Tried them once, chewy garlic butter. Dont' need to try them again. Your Dash is amazing. And, on the other hand, so is your Bella!

  6. I've only ever had them in restaurants and really enjoyed some with chorizo, softish and flavorful.

    Can you please explain how you bred such an adventurous eater? I have a baby and I must know!

  7. ¡Acabo de descubrir tu blog y es increíble! Yo también cocino con mis hijos.

  8. This looks wonderful. I love your blog too. I saw you on Top 100 blogs on Babble.
    I'm your newest follower.
    Come visit me as well!

  9. I was prepared it on last sunday. Its test is such a very best and very yummy dish.

  10. I just came across your blog from Babble, and I'm loving your writing style - Has a bit of a kick, I like that. Any who, I've definitely subscribed - looking forward to reading more.

  11. Shoot. That made me heave a little. Go Dash.

  12. Love your blog! Cannot decide what's better, your writing, or your photos. You paint beautiful pictures with your words and your camera.
    My kids are very adventurous eaters, but I have not tried snails on them (I still have to cross that barrier myself, having eaten them only a couple of times:)

  13. Such a fun an lovely writing you have! Cheers Susanne

  14. Dude, you rock! I'll eat snails with Dash any day!!!

  15. Oh my gosh! I had to make a face the whole while reading this one. Too funny. I'm a pretty adventurous eater but just don't think I could eat snails. Don't know why, I love clams and oysters. I assume they are around the same texture?

  16. Came across your blog from the Babble top 100. I'm up feeding a newborn and over the past few nights I've read all the way back through your archives. it's been a great read! Thanks :)

  17. wow... what a beautiful narration! you make snails sound Yummy to a lifelong vegetarian... (isn't that something like selling a bedouin in the sahara a pair of skis??)

  18. Wow - you're so lucky! I hear so many nightmare stories about kids unwilling to try seafood or any new food at all. Great photographs!

  19. Thank you...all wonderful but the very best parts are in the details.

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  21. Your shared photograph is such a very amazing and too much attractive, Superb work.

  22. Loved this post. I have two daughters myself and they eat JUST about anything, not sure if they grew up eating "weird" things since they were tiny, one of them being snails or they just have the strong Portuguese blood in them. I will never forget one of the first times my now teen ate snails. We were still living in Portugal at the time, her American GrandFather was visiting and we were all enjoying this delicacy, all BUT Grandpa who barely had a chance to eat one as he was feeding them to my baby who kept on asking him for more non-stop!

  23. This is a perfect example of a delicious breakfast, this looks very yummy.

  24. What wonderful photos! I can't wait to start taking pics of our kid... He's due in July! :)


  25. Fantastic. I love it! In Ghana, where I lived for several years, they have these HUGE forest snails that are considered a major delicacy. Like the ones you buy in the market have shells literally the size of your fist. And the slimier the better. It took me a while to come around to eating them in all their giant slimey glory.