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An actor of French gastronomy: the Burgundy snail

March 8, 2012

If there is a culinary symbol of French gastronomy, it is the snail. Yet!

Its variety of denominations : cacalauso in Provence, in the Charente cagouille, casalauda in Roussillon, caraceu in Nice, cararaulada in Languedoc, schnacka in Alsace, luma in Poitou! It comes from the Provençal “escaragol” cousin “Caracoles” Iberian, the “cargol” Catalan but far removed from “lumace” Italian, “snail” English and “schnecke” not to mention the German “Saligari” Greek, ” kala “banda, the” Okoto “Yoruba or” conchas “Cuba! This proves that while moving from 4 meters per hour, he managed to colonize the planet, beginning his journey here over 12,000 years. Today it is a valuable resource for the Balkans and Poland as our national snail has the name of Burgundy, the species most consumed, the helix is almost entirely imported. In addition to its taste, it is also an integral part of the pharmacopoeia. The science and art are interested because this strange animal has inspired not only artists but also theologians and philosophers. What do we know today in this mollusc loved or hated, that although we seeming native, is now a real player in globalization?

Since when do we eat snails in France? Gastropods (from the Greek gaster, “stomach” dust, “foot”), are the most numerous animal species besides insects. There are about 40 000. They appeared here 600 million years and are the only mollusc have conquered the land.

10,000 years of Snails Feast!

Archaeology has shown that snails were consumed in our regions from the Mesolithic period, around 10,000 BC. BC The Greeks and Romans were fond of this mollusc and they raised already accommodated in various ways. In the Middle Ages, the snail was a delicacy for his noble seasoning was very expensive and hunting at his horse with dogs, more likely than their masters to unearth the buried snails. In the sixteenth, was renewed interest in the surrounding snail regarded as lean meat, such as frogs and turtles, found its place on every table.

In 1814, during a dinner in honour of Tsar Alexander 1st, Talleyrand chef  Antonin Careme (the chef from Burgundy) introduced a new recipe. This one has the idea of serving snails stuffed with butter, garlic and parsley. The recipe works wonders! Since then and throughout the 19th century, it appears in the map of big fancy restaurants.

 Antonin Carème (1784-1833)
Creator of the recipe “l’Escargot à la Bourguignonne”

80% of snails eaten in France are prepared “A la Burgundy” that is stuffed with herb, garlic & butter.

Where are the snails today? The collection of snails was later codified what led to the depletion of the species when consumption increases dramatically. To satisfy their customers,  French suppliers (caterers, canners) of live snails imported it from Germany and Central Europe and the Balkans and Turkey. However, most sources of supply being away from consumption centers, ithttp:// became difficult to work with  live snails and in the 1970s, we saw the development of production sites (Greece, Turkey) plants treatment where one cleans, sorts and packages shells and flesh. Modern and well equipped, often organized in joint ventures, these enterprises, strictly regulated, providing a commodity respecting European standards of quality and hygiene. Located on-site collection, in remote rural areas, they offer unskilled jobs, often seasonal women in the region, for which they are a significant sideline. – The species is the most consumed helix. The most famous and finest is the Helix pomatia Linnaeus, said the snail of Burgundy, which is actually native to Central Europe. This is the recipe to the Burgundian who popularized it and not its origin. Rare and protected in France, it is imported from Greece and Eastern Europe and comes from  collection because iut cannot be raised. – The helix or helix lucorum of Turkey is also picked up in Greece and the Balkans, the snail is the most sold today, canned or frozen – The Helix aspersa, the “little gray” and “big gray” imported or brought up in France. Larger and less tasty than the helix, it is not regarded in France as a snail, unlike other European countries, which explains its poor reputation. Strictly codified, its use must be stated on the packaging and the food served at the restaurant. The snail has followed a helical path. From France, he was then imported from Germany, the Balkans, Turkey and the countries of East and China. Every year, hundreds of trucks on the Balkans and the Alps for transport to the processing plants, raw materials imported from South and Central Europe

Domestic production: The breeding of helix aspersa “Snails and giant snails used for the preparation may come from the collection of wild animals in the wild” gathering “or livestock. By “farming” means the intensive or extensive grazing for a minimum of 12 weeks (not hibernation) with or without food intake, “says French official regulations. The fattening of snails, after a mortality of about 20%, lasts four to six months in which will require 1.5 to 2 kg of special foods for a kilo of snails. This gives an average of 200 to 300 snails per square meter salable. A small gray reaches its adult size in one year. French production is 500 to 800 tons per year while we import 5000 tons per year.

Other uses of the snail Snails, diet and health Snails are high in omega 6 and their consumption is highly recommended for fight against cholesterol, diseases and cardiovascular aging, provided of course to eat at the Cretan fashion rather than Burgundy.

Most legends featuring snails make it be beneficial and form has inspired many artists, Babylonian ziggurats to the masterpieces of Frank Lloyd Wright. However, the fathers of the Catholic Church, taking literally the Biblical texts, which ranks among the creeping, often assimilated to the devil. The medieval imagination has to be considered a negative, which alone accounts for several deadly sins – sloth, avarice, lust – That may be why it was long despised by our ancestors before the Industrial Revolution, ignoring superstitions, not put to the fashion in Paris. As usual, the province led the way, and this dish heritage that made the heyday of Parisian brasseries, if today is still emblematic of French gastronomy has indeed become one of the actors of globalization .

Source: Frances Dieterich Associate Professor of History and Geography

Where to purchase Snails in Hong Kong? On French gourmet Hong Kong online store



Snails recipes:

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