‘Disaffected’ Snail Hunters Cause Shortage


French snail-lovers should read Melissa Clark’s essay in the New York Times today. In it, Clark details how much she loves “snail butter”—the garlicky, parsley-flecked butter that escargot are cooked in—and how little she actually likes the snails themselves. So instead, she comes up with a recipe for slathering the butter on grilled squid.

The French may have to adopt this idea, because there is—quelle horreur!—a snail shortage in France. And why? It turns out that Eastern Europe used to provide France two thirds of all the snails consumed there. But now that Poland and Hungary have joined the EU, they can get better jobs than snail-pickers, thanks.

Reports the UK’s Independent:

“In a glum statement, the French food processing industry announced that snail-collecting was now the object of “growing disaffection” among eastern Europeans. People were no longer keen to leave home before dawn on wet days, armed with a torch, to search the Polish forests or Hungarian scrubland for the “burgundy snail” or Helix pomatia.”

They weren’t keen to do that? I can’t imagine why not!

And a bit of editorializing from the British writer:

The attraction remains a mystery to much of the rest of the planet. The sauce served with the snails – made from garlic, parsley and butter – is delicious, but to the uninitiated, the escargot itself tastes like a tired piece of chewing-gum.

And then there is Madeleine Lechartier, 61, who says that there is no snail shortage, just too many lazy people who don’t want to hunt their own snails. She, for one, gets up at 5am to turn over leaves and branches and snag her own snails. Says Madeleine:

“‘People say there is a shortage but the wet summers of the last two years have been very kind to snails. I have 500 snails in my larder, already cooked. We will eat them little by little.'”

So there you have it folks, all the geo-political snail news that’s fit to print.