Snails have been used since prehistoric times. Snails were even found in the caves of ancient people during archaeological excavations. Even then, snails were cooked not only in France, but the remains of shells were also found in the territory of modern Spain and the entire Mediterranean. Snails were first eaten during the time of Ancient Rome.
However, no reports have been found about the use of snails with garlic and creamy sauce, but rather a trend that formed many millennia later. In the Stone Age, snails were supposedly fried in coals extracted from pine or juniper wood.
Once known to us now, escargots served as food for the mass population and even were salvation for the poor. Since hunting in the master’s 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, and 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.
But if snails were so cheap and were eaten by the poor, why is escargot a delicacy?
Escargot is a delicacy due to the constantly growing demand amid the depletion of natural resources. By the middle of the 20th century, the natural populations of edible snails in the civilized countries of Europe were so critically reduced that their industrial capture was finally banned.
Why Is Escargot So Expensive?
Escargot is so expensive because the demand far outstrips the supply. Even the French, who made escargots popular, do not have enough snails and have to import escargots from Eastern European countries, from the Balkans, and Greece and Turkey.
How much does escargot cost? One pound of shelled escargot (100 snails) will cost $80. If you order escargot in a restaurant, 6-12 escargots will cost you anywhere between $15-$50, depending on the type of restaurant and its location. Expect to pay $5-$10 for one gram of escargot caviar.
Also, a completely new delicacy is rapidly gaining popularity in the highest circles of Europe — the caviar of grape snails. Its inventor at the beginning of the millennium was the French farmer Dominique Piero. And although obtaining a unique product is a colossal work (in the most favorable conditions, a snail lays only 4 grams of pearl-white eggs per day, and besides, each of them must be washed and processed by hand), one kilogram of tender, salty snail caviar costs 2 thousand euros.
Fortunately, the free market is governed by the universal formula, “demand creates supply.” Therefore, the production of the most popular terrestrial gastropods had to be established through artificial breeding.
Where Do Escargots Come From?
Farms specializing in the cultivation of Helix snails began to appear one after another in France and Spain, Germany and Portugal, Greece and Italy, and then “captured” the European countries of the former socialist camp. Some time ago, Bulgaria and Poland joined the ranks of producers of escargot.
It is not known exactly when escargot turned from everyday food into an exquisite delicacy. One of the versions says that the legendary founder of haute cuisine, the French culinary specialist Marie Antoine Karem, had a hand in this reincarnation. As a personal chef for the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Napoleonic France, Charles Talleyrand-Perigord achieved the highest skill in creating culinary masterpieces that could amaze the chef’s highest-ranking guests. Reflecting on the original menu in honor of the unexpected visit of the emperor and autocrat of the All-Russian Alexander I (held in 1814), Karem noticed a grape snail “walking” in the garden and made a fateful decision.
Boiled snails flavored with garlic, parsley and butter, served in their own shells and presented as “escargot de Bourgogne,” really made an indelible impression on the king. And, according to rumors, they became a catalyst for his irresistible desire to see Karem as the chef of his own kitchen. And since in 1819 the great culinary specialist really took this position for several months, there was simply no chance of snail snails disappearing from the horizon of gourmets again.
Why are snails (escargots) popular in France? Snails (escargots) are popular in France due to the combination of great taste and allowed consumption during the fast. After the snail population decreased, escargots became popular in France and the world due to their rarity and bigger demand.
The French annually consume about 40-50 thousand tons of escargot, and up to half of this amount is eaten on the Christmas holidays. The favorite of the local gastronomic delicacies is the grape snail (lat.Helix pomatia). It is the largest gastropod mollusc in Europe and is often called Burgundy. At the same time, France is far from the only country where snails are loved. The modern world market for escargots is estimated at 120 thousand tons, which, according to various estimates, covers only 50-70% of the existing demand.
In addition, other land snails are also eaten in various parts of the world — Helix aspersa, Helix Lucorum, Otala Lactea, Cepaea nemoralis, Cepaea hortensis, Arianta arbustorum , Achatina Fulica, etc. Moreover, a number of them are bred and grown artificially. In some regions, this type of non-traditional livestock breeding is of serious industrial importance.
Snails contain a lot of lectins in them, substances beneficial for humans. Lectins are able to glue bacterial cells, thereby depriving them of pathogenic activity. Since snails are enriched with calcium, magnesium and essential fatty acids, they are recommended for rickets and high cholesterol levels in the blood, muscle diseases.
Eating snails is recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers. And also for diseases requiring regeneration and strengthening of bone and cartilage tissue, in particular with osteochondrosis, bone tuberculosis and radiation sickness.