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There are two types of people in this world.  Those than have eaten snails and those who haven’t.  This is equally true of any other food item as well.  Snails are just a more significant dividing line.  As someone who has served escargot in the past, I saw plenty of both groups.  I even watched a few join the “have eaten” group without their prior knowledge.  It is those people who inspired this post.  If you were just one of those people, here are a few reassuring facts that might help get the person who fed you snails out of the dog house.

Escargot is the French word for snails.  The French were hardly the first to eat snails.  We have learned from cave drawings that snails have been considered delicacies for most of human history.  Laugh if you want, but for most of human history at least half of the world’s population would have considered it far more acceptable than bacon or a pork chop.  We accept the name “escargot” as a sort of euphemism and because the most common preparation is the one developed by the French.

The escargot served in restaurants goes through an extensive cleansing process before making it to your plate.  They are purged of any waste in their systems while still alive.  They are then taken out of their shells to have their intestines removed.  The shells are boiled to cleanse them of any impurities.  They are shipped fresh, frozen, or canned.  They can also be shipped in the shell, but most commonly are shipped separately.  This aids in preparing them to be served.

There are two primary traditional preparations of escargot.  The first is sautéed in garlic butter, white wine, or chicken stock.  These are often served in escargot dishes.  An escargot dish is a small ceramic or metal dish with either six or twelve divots that allow the escargot to remain in the sauce they were cooked in.  The second preparation is a baked dish that involves the chef filling the shell with a stuffing like substance.  The escargot is them reinserted into the shell and more of the filling is added to fill opening of the shell.  This preparation generally will be served with an escargot fork and tongs to hold the shells.

There are several frequently asked questions about escargot.

Is escargot safe to eat?

At a reputable restaurant in the United States, you have no more reason to worry about with escargot than anything else on the menu.  The methods used to raise, prepare, and serve them are fully regulated.

Do you chew escargot?

I suppose this is a matter of personal preference.  I do.  If you choose not to, make sure one of your dining companions knows the Heimlich maneuver.

Do you eat the shells?

No.  That is a silly question.  I hope you have health insurance.

Your enjoyment of this meal comes in deciding whether or not you are comfortable eating a snail.  They are served with accompaniments that provide the flavor of the dish.  It is quite acceptable to eat escargot; people have been doing so far longer than most of the items we enjoy every day.  Life is about new experiences and this is one that you can mark off your bucket list.  So forgive that person that tricked you into eating snails and start thinking of the friend that you will bring back next week to trick into splitting the escargot with you. 

You can learn about other interesting meats by visiting the Proteins page.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is the creator of The Hospitality Formula Network, a series of websites dedicated to all aspects of the restaurant industry. He is also the author of the book Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips and Building Your Brand With Facebook.

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