Where Does Escargot Originate From? History Of Edible Snails

The French are a nation for which food has become a whole art. They cook and eat delicious food. They come up with whole odes for typical French delicacies. Foie gras, mousses, parfaits, terrines, artichokes, quiches, soft spicy cheeses, aromatic and crunchy baguettes, freshly caught shellfish — this is all about the country’s famous gastronomic heritage.

Among culinary delights, snails (escargots) occupy a special place. This an expensive delicacy, rich in protein and mineral salts. Although, of course, it was not always like this.

Where does escargot originate from? Snails originated in France, but the remains of snail shells were also found on the territory of modern Spain and the entire Mediterranean. Snails were first eaten during the time of Ancient Rome. That said, escargot originated from Europe, namely Eastern France and Northern Spain.

Where Was Escargot Invented?

Where did eating snails originate from? The escargot was invented in the Mediterranean. People began to eat snails a long time ago, baking in ashes even before utensils were invented. The escargot was eaten in Ancient Greece and Rome. In the Stone Age, snails were supposedly fried in coals made from pine or juniper wood.

Once upon a time, escargots served as food for the ordinary people and even were salvation for the poor. Since hunting in the forests was forbidden and the meat was available only to the upper strata of society, commoners began to cook snail and frog meat. The dish was gaining popularity, it was allowed to be consumed during strict fasting. The snails were canned and taken on hikes, and the monks fed the snails with aromatic herbs, thanks to which the meat acquired a special taste and smell.

Who Invented Escargot?

Who invented escargot? Fluvius Hirpinus is believed to have invented escargot, according to the Roman historian Pliny. Fluvius Hirpinus is reported to have made escargot popular right before the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey. Fluvius Hirpinus’s estate was used for heliciculture. 

Escargot’s story began in ancient Rome. And then snails were the salvation of the poor from hunger, and at the same time, they were an unusual treat for the jaded rich. And Roman legionnaires took snails with them on long campaigns, like live canned food. Snails are very nutritious and rich in protein, with little or no fat.

The Romans paid great attention to the appearance and slenderness of the body. Knowing that snails were a dietary product that aids digestion, they served them at the end of the meal. With the fall of the Roman Empire, snails have not lost their popularity. On the contrary, in the Middle Ages, snails were allowed to eat even during the strictest fasting. To diversify the food during the fast, the monks even fed them with special herbs, from which the meat acquired a special aroma.

When did escargot appear? Archaeological finds made in various countries of the world clearly indicate that snails have been on the menu of Homo sapiens literally since the beginning of time. The age of the most ancient shells, the remains of which were discovered during excavations of Paleolithic sites, is estimated at 30 thousand years.

Moreover, scientists conclude that the first attempts to improve the cooking process were also “dedicated” to land gastropods. Long before the invention of dishes, they were baked in small pits, covered with hot coals.

In more recent times, the importance of snails in the diet of the inhabitants of ancient civilizations began to reflect the myths. So, in Babylon and Ancient Egypt, the unhurried movement of these creatures was associated with eternity, which gave rise to additional confidence in the unconditional benefits of dishes prepared from them. And in ancient Greece, due to the mass release of snails coincided with the beginning of the wet autumn season, they were considered messengers of the gods, signaling the beginning of the harvest period.

And at the same time, a delicacy sent from above, equally accessible to the rich and the poor. It is interesting that these views were of double benefit to the ancient Hellenes. Firstly, all large snails are agricultural pests, and therefore the timely capture of the “divine messengers” helped in the best way to preserve the fruits of orchards and vegetable gardens. And, secondly, nutritious shellfish were an excellent addition to the rather monotonous, albeit healthy, menu of most of the inhabitants of Ancient Greece.

The Romans willingly shared the tastes of the ancient Greeks. For example, the famous ancient Roman erudite writer Pliny the Elder in his “Natural History” not only characterized land gastropods as a wholesome and healthy food but also recommended a snail diet for stomach diseases.

He also preserved for posterity the name of a person who can be considered the father of helic culture. This is Fulvius Lippinus, who took up the cultivation of the garden snail Helix aspersa. The first-ever creator of a snail farm not only “set up an extensive establishment for the artificial breeding of snails but also “invented a special feed for them, consisting of wheat flour mixed with grape must.”

Escargot in the 19th Century

As for the 19th century, in 1814, a young chef Antonin, then serving with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Talleyrand, had to feed an unexpected guest — Tsar Alexander I. But due to a late and unexpected visit, there was no fresh food in stock. The chef began to think about how to feed the demanding guest and solve this problem.

While being in the garden, Antonin saw a grape snail crawling. Here is how he thought about cooking snails and this was the turning point in French cuisine. He knew about the recipes of the ancient Romans, so he seasoned the snail meat with garlic, parsley and butter. These ingredients were supposed to refresh the taste, add spicy notes, brighten the appearance and soften the fillet. The resulting dish intrigued the Tsar very much. Here is how Escargo de Bourgogne was invented. This recipe still excites the taste of gourmets all over the world.

At that time, among the nobility, it was fashionable to experiment with cooking, so snails began to gain popularity, variety, but the original escargot recipe has survived and remains popular to this day.

Why Is Escargot So Expensive Now?

The increased demand for snails led to their deficit. Since the 1970s, the snail population in Europe has been steadily declining, and even a ban on snail collection in nature cannot solve this problem. Of one hundred percent of the total amount consumed in food, only 3% is produced in France, the remaining 97% of the French are forced to buy in the countries of Asia, and Eastern Europe. More than 30 thousand tons of snails are eaten in France every year. All this made escargot a very expensive delicacy.

After scientists have identified all the benefits of snails, the amount of their consumption is growing steadily. Indeed, snails’ meat has a very low fat content (2.4% per 100g), and the protein content is 16%. In addition, snail meat is rich in many micro and macro elements, minerals, fatty acids, vitamins. This product is recommended for people suffering from a lack of protein, pregnant and lactating mothers, diabetics.

A properly cooked snail has a delicate, sophisticated, herbal flavor. The accompanying components successfully emphasize and complement the taste.

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