Yes, we are talking snails here. Those tiny, little creatures (I bet Deyrolle has a few) that are awfully cute and considered a delicacy in France. The French consume 40,000 tons of escargot a year, making them the world's largest consumer. Much of what they eat must be imported as they cannot domestically produce enough to keep up with the demand. Who knew that growing snails was that difficult.
While we give France the credit for taking a slimy, earthy creature and elevating it to haute cuisine, they were not the first by a long shot to nibble on this little treat. Through archaeological digs, it has been found that pre-historic man's caves were strewn with empty snail shells, illustrating that they were part of a less than gourmet cuisine. Early Greeks and Romans incorporated snails into their diet, eating them usually on days of celebration and festivals. Apicus, author of the oldest known cookbook (1st century BC-2nd century AD) included a recipe for this tiny delicacy.
Baked in sterilized shells, oozing butter, garlic and parsley, these little guys are usually served as appetizers in France with accompanying baguette to collect all that delicious sauce. Here is the funny thing for me: I am a very adventurous eater, open to trying almost anything but can't bring myself to dive into a plate of escargot. My husband on the other hand, thinks eggs and cheese are the devil and won't go near either but will order this as an appetizer whenever it is on the menu. Says a lot about the two of us.
Additional information: Escargots à la Bourguignonne recipe
Photo credit: Wikipedia