By Leigh O’Connor.
Why do French people eat so many snails? Because they don’t like fast food!
Did you know snails have been around as food since prehistoric times? High in protein and low in fat (without the lashings of butter), escargot even have their own national day to celebrate on Monday, May 24.
The most common way we see escargot served is as an appetizer, where the snails are removed from their shells, cooked in butter with plenty of garlic, then replaced and served with crusty bread for soaking up all the garlicky goodness. Mon Dieu…they are good!
The French reportedly consume 40,000,000 kg of snails each year – while globally restaurants serve about 1 billion escargot annually. Here are four more fun facts to celebrate National Escargot Day, plus a recipe to try at home from celebrity Chef Luke Nguyen:
•Heliculture is the science of growing snails for food – while the most popular edible snail species are Helix pomatia and Helix aspersa.
•Snails have been eaten as food since ancient Roman times, when the author of the oldest surviving cookbook from the 1st Century BC, Apicius had a snail recipe included in the book.
•The United States first caught the escargot bug in the 1850s when they were introduced to restaurants in California.
•Snails are almost blind and don’t have any aural systems, meaning they can’t hear anything.
Most people wouldn’t think of Vietnamese cuisine when snails come to mind, but Chef Luke Nguyen’s dish of snails cooked in lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and basil is an easy way to experiment with cooking escargot at home.
If using fresh snails – you can also use tinned ones – make sure to leave them to soak in salted water for 10 minutes, before rinsing under fresh water; repeat this three times, then set aside. Serve the snails with dipping sauce, Thai basil leaves and toothpicks to pick them out of their shells.
For those looking to dine out this National Escargot Day, click here for a French restaurant near you.