The Carnivore Project asked me to nominate and then champion one kind of meat for an online meatdeathmatch.
"The tournament will be a series of one-on-one (meato-y-meato)
match-ups. Each dish has a champion, who will talk about their meat and
explain why it deserves to be the Ultimate Meat. The viewing public will then decide which dish is worthier, by means of a vote."
I chose snails because, as I will illustrate beyond any logical dispute, snails are the most widely available, flexible, delicious, healthy, inexpensive and ‘real’ foodstuff known to man.
Unlike virtually all of my Carnivore Project competitors; burgers,
bacon, steaks, ribs, hot dogs, lamb, foie gras, chicken, buffalo wings,
turkey, goose, duck, fish etc. snails are real food. There’s no
cellophane and no price tag on a garden snail. You know exactly what
you are eating, where it comes from and how it is killed. Collecting,
preparing, cooking and eating snails is one of the only true, ‘real’
meat experiences open to people in the world with no
recourse to guns, rods, knives or sticks.
Others may champion burgers (pahhh…. fatty growth hormones), bacon (chemically enhanced gunk) or sausage (literally bollocks), snails are all natural, nutritious and nearly always available – the three N’s.
For some, the picture above supports the commonly held belief that snails present a number of technical challenges, both physical and psychological, for diners. But… well… get over it already. Snails are now widely available even in "Good food? Huh? What’s that?" Britain, which was absolutely not the case 10 or 20 years ago. In short, snails don’t need sexing up and they don’t need your freaked out fears, they need your knives and forks.
The number of stomach screamingly classic snail dishes in the world is simply breathtaking. In France there are a great many exquisite snail dishes including the famous – and absolutely corkin’ – Escargot de Bourgogne. In Britain – where every single native snail is edible – The Fat Duck has made snail porridge famous. In Vietnam, epicures adore snail noodle soup, snails in coconut, and stuffed steamed snails. From south east Nigeria we have Edikaikong soup – with the amazing giant African snail. And that’s just your garden end of the snail spectrum.
The great many sea varieties are an altogether different kettle of snail. Live Bulot (think whelks) are like velvet when briefly boiled and dipped in Ãoli. Top UK chef Rick Stein recommends whelk fritters. The Italians love their Scungilli Marinara. In Ecuador Conch ceviche is a hit. While in Korea, a day out at the seaside is incomplete without a nibble on one or two of these. Snails, raw or cooked properly i.e. not overcooked, simply melt into your taste ducts.
Snail cuisine is globally diverse, although I’ll concede this is not a unique2snails phenomenon. That said, they’re cheap and/or free. You can find them easily in the garden or at the beach. They come in all sizes and offer a bewildering variety of taste experiences and can be cooked, as mentioned above, in an enormous number of ways.
Snails are also lean. They’re virtually fat-free. In addition, they look ace. Discarded shells make fabulous toys for kids, ashtrays, ornaments, art etc. A prawn can’t do that. And unless your Damien Hirst you’ll have a herculaenly hard task making art out of a cow before washing up time. And anyway, when was the last time you saw an entire cow on sale in Sainsbury’s? Snails are different. You buy a snail, or find a snail, and you get a snail. A real one. Whole.
But don’t just take my word for it, tune in to bloggers-come-snail-hunter/gatherer/cookers,
"delectable! Not rubbery at all. Nor slimey…. Why pay the earth for a delicacy that is considered by most gardeners
to be a pest! This is probably the most humane meat you will eat." Duo
"I’m proud of the fact that I’ve hunted, slain and cooked my own dinner." Blogjam
"They were just as delicious as could be… one taste of that
buttery, garlicky goodness made this science experience rewarding,
delicious and educational." Matt Bites
Voting should be up soon at The Carnivore Project. Vote snail. Vote often.