Poor snails

Our assault on snails continues. Only days after I crunched one beneath my bare foot, our local café featured them as their plate of the day. So…here are the snails before our depredations:


Notice that many of them are sticking out of the shell — those are the best ones, because they’re the easiest to eat. You just put the shell to your mouth and suck. Foop! Down the gullet. The harder ones take a little prying with a toothpick, but after a bit of practice, this can be a fast maneuver, too.

snail aftermath

Here’s the aftermath: a bowl full of empty shells, and the broth begging to have fresh bread dipped into it.

My wife informs me that there’s a bit of class prejudice regarding snails. They’re considered the “poor person’s seafood,” and some folks won’t be seen eating them. Their loss, I say. Besides, I feel rather gleeful while eating snails. These are the creatures that eat my veranda plants, so it seems only fair that I eat them in turn.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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24 Responses to Poor snails

  1. I never say never. That said, I’d have to be on day 5 without sustenance before I’d eat a snail. My mother used to brag, endlessly I add, when some guy took her to a restaurant. “I had Escargot!” “Mom. You ate sanails. There’s some in peoples’ yards” she was unwavering in her specialness because she’d been taken for escargot. We just shuddered at the thought.
    I didn’t think you’d eat then after yesterday’s truly hysterical tale of stepping on one.

  2. Ines says:

    I love snails and I’m portuguese 🙂 The snail festival in Loures is a must go and funny enough there’s also a snail festival somewhere close to Barcelona where I’m currently living. My fav are the big brown ones because there’s more meat for less work! lol That said, and considering the people at the festival, I must say I never felt any class prejudice regarding snails and I see basically everyone gathering around those lovely tiny plates. Moreover, what we usually call “poor person’s seafood” is “tremoços”. I wonder if it is because I lived in the north of Portugal?…

    • oregon expat says:

      Ooo, tremoços, love those! More than snails, for sure.

      • Ines says:

        I like snails better, but there’s no way I’m saying no to a “pires de tremoços!” 😉

      • I am clearly missing something. What do they taste like? Don’t say chicken!

        • Ines says:

          Oh, not chicken. The thing is the sauce is very similar to what you’d use to make a chicken soup and that’s probably where it comes from. They’re salty and spongy, and also taste of oregano and meat sauce. I’ve eaten them since I had teeth so I never really gave it much thought, except that I really like them! Hehe

    • Ines — I was just wondering about Spain and snails. So, it’s an Iberian/France/North Africa thing.

      It is indeed truth that “tremoços” are considered the “poor’s people seafood” (oh, bless Eusébio and his considerations), however I must say I never saw any supposed very-high-pretend-to-be-from-the-best-families (read: Cinha, Kiki, Dada, Roro… and other jet-set people) eating snails.

      I consider snails a ground people thing: after a day in the field (I’m an archaeologist) with a fresh Sagres. 🙂

      • Paulo says:

        Agreed. Ground People eat snails. 🙂
        Just curious: since I am from the North… oh, what the heck, I’m from Porto… I still tend to consider snails as a Southern thing – do you call them “caracóis” or “caracoletas” ?
        As for tremoços, one of my happiest days in the first few months of my US life (after some time my cravings faded away, only surfacing unexpectedly every now and then) was when I found those yellow bastards here. They call them Lupini Beans and I think they all come from Mexico.
        And as I type this I am planning on going out to get a jar of them (yeah, they come in jars, go figure). It will go well with a Double IPA from Sierra Nevada. Sorry, Sagres, you ain’t no beer. 😉

        • Luis says:

          I still tend to consider snails as a Southern thing – do you call them “caracóis” or “caracoletas”
          Both, actually 😉
          Small snails are “caracóis”, big snails are “caracoletas”

        • xenatuba says:

          At least you have a smorgasbord of beers to choose from here in the PNW. Sagres is fine for a lager; Sierra Nevada is one of my favorite breweries, but give Deschutes or Terminal Gravity IPA’s a try, they are stellar.

          And for what it’s worth, I have been trying to recreate some of my delightful meals from Portugal here since coming back to Oregon.

          • Paulo says:

            Yup. Yup. Deschutes is great. They have a brewery downtown that is one of my favorite spots.
            I tried Terminal Gravity but for some reason I can’t remember now I wasn’t too impressed.
            The HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewery) is a must, and their bike-bars in the SE and the NE are worth pedaling to.

            As for Sierra Nevada… it was where and how I learned to appreciate beer. A few years ago we became friends with the guy who was the sales rep for SN in Hawaii. We stayed with him and his wife in Oahu a number of times and ended up house-sitting their California home for almost a year before they came back. In the process we went to some beer festivals and got to try some really good stuff. In June we’re celebrating the solstice with them over some grilled sardines from Portugal (3rd time I have them flying overnight from Matosinhos, in which is probably my least eco-friendly maneuver…) and a wide range of SN goodies.
            Have you tried the Hoptimum? It’s a double IPA that shows up every now and then on the shelves and it’s gone in a few hours. I found it yesterday and wow is it good.
            What else… Russian River! And of course Ninkasi, up there with the best.

            As for recreating Portuguese cuisine… I hope you are much more successful than I have been. I think I said it here before – I think that the quality of our food has to do with the local ingredients and the freshness and maybe something else that is not replicable. But there are still lots of possible approximations that can work.
            Good luck! And please let me know if you find bacalhau in the NW! Not bacalá, tried that, not the same. 🙂

      • Lilaine says:

        I’ve been told(by Wikipedia ;)) that in antiquity, Greeks and Romans were very fond of snails, and that there are archaeological hints that snails were consumed in Europe back in the Mesolithic…. Haven’t you find any fossilized shells when digging a site?

        • The snail shells accumulations take the French name of “escargotieres” and are quite common in North Africa, Pyrinees and south France sites dated from Early Holocene (i.e. Mesolithic). Some of them are very large accumulations.

          In Portugal, they are not so common (except nowadays… eheh!), even in Mesolithic times. As far as I know, there’s a level of “escargotier” in Muge shell middens and another possible one here in Algarve in Rocha das Gaivotas. I know this last one better, because I studied the material; these snail accumulations are rather small comparing with the shellfish ones in the same site, and most probably these animals were only eaten sporadically.

          As for other snail occurrences in Portuguese archaeological sites (for instance, they are common in garbage sites from Islamic Medieval times), they normally are intrusions and not human-made accumulations.

  3. maria jorge says:

    can’t wait to swallow some of those… and wash them down with an icy Sagres 🙂

  4. Alma says:

    Yum! I like snails but not seafood. Snails taste like garlic (the ones I’ve had…), oysters and such just taste like ocean and are much slimier. Much prefer the “poor man’s” variant here. But those in your pics seem rather a lot smaller than the ones I’ve eaten.

  5. xenatuba says:

    I’m puzzled. Not gross to eat but gross to step on? I do like your attitude though…I feel the same about venison!

    • Paulo says:

      Come on, think of any food. Virtually all food is gross to step on and not gross to eat. Except for grapes. They’re multifaceted.
      But yeah, I was also amused by how fast the snails went from gross to yummy. 🙂

  6. Joao Brandao says:

    If we’re also talking about actual seafood, I’d rather have a nice big plate of percebes (goose neck barnacles).

  7. Lisa Shaw says:

    With all the wonderful things available for us to eat in this world … fruits, vegetables, baked goods, chocolate, animals that are actually made of meat and not slime … why in the name of all that is edible would anyone ever choose to eat a snail?! *shudder*

    Some things I will just never understand.

    >) plz don’t flame me (<

    • I’m on your side Lisa! Snails are Fear Factor food.

    • Lilaine says:

      I don’t really like them either.
      But as a kid, I had so much fun ‘hunting’ them in the neighborhood.
      And then, Granma would put them all in a great basket(actually, a fishing basket she stole from GranPa) and let them fast(and crap) for several days(poor starving creatures!), then she would give them ‘herbes de Provence’ to eat(poor stuffed creatures!) for some time, then she salted them and the result was spectacular, all that slime!). The worst moment was after rinsing and scrubbing the crappy-slimy shells, when she dropped them-alive- in a boiling court-bouillon: I’ll always remember these poor little things’ agony screams! 😮
      Even after they were transferred and put to simmer in a most delectable tomato sauce, I couldn’t resolve to find them appetizing.
      She did the court-bouillon thing for all the living shrimps and crabs I brought back after my fishing expeditions, too. They didn’t scream, they fizzed. I could eat them. 🙂

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