Monday, April 11, 2005


This the time of year in Northern California the snails proliferate and threaten to take over everything, eating gardens, climbing up the sides of houses, attaching themselves to automobiles, furniture, and leaving silvery trails of mucus wherever they go. Snails aren't native to California, they were brought here by French and Italian immigrants to be eaten as escargot, a dish that is like day-old chewed bubblegum sauteed in butter and garlic, sometimes surrounded by a bit of soggy, garlicky pastry. I've eaten it, it's okay. Most things are good when used as a vehicle for garlic and butter, but snails wouldn't be my first pick. I'd go for calamari, scallops, or crabs first, but I wouldn't necessarily like to find any of them in my shoe first thing in the morning either. In Korea, kids eat a much tinier type of snails bought in seaweed cones from street vendors. Hae used to eat them as a child as a special treat.

Once I planted a bunch of sunflowers from seeds in my back yard in Oakland and sat outside one evening drinking a beer. As darkness fell I started hearing clearly audible sounds, CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH! I could only describe it as the sound of a lion or wolf gnawing on the leg bone of an antelope, it was loud and disturbing! I grabbed my beer and headed into the house. The next morning there were not a sign of my tiny sunflower plants. Those motherfuckers with their tiny jaws had sheared them clean off. Or do they even have jaws? I don't know. They are terrifying organisms.

The other day, I was horrified to discover one of our sauce pans sitting on the kitchen counter with about thirty snails inside it, a sheet of plastic wrap over the top with holes punched through, and a rubber band holding it in place. Hae had been gardening and her arm was sore from throwing the snails into the street for the SUVs to run over. She also thought it would be fun and educational for Oscar to have a snail farm. Mom and child put a few lettuce leaves and tulips in the pan for the snails to eat, but the snails didn't seem to notice. They huddled together for safety.

The next morning the leaves and tulips were gone and there were snail shits all over the pan. Some of the snails were hanging upside down on the plastic wrap giving you an disgusting view of their undersides and little mouths sucking frantically with no signs of jaws at all. Horrible! Evil! Hae said that Joy of Cooking showed how to prepare snails for eating, so now she was starving them to rid them of toxins. Soon she would introduce clean organic leaves and herbs to their diet and prepare them for slaughter. Christ, had she gone mad?! As they got hungrier, one punctured the plastic and slimed its way onto the counter looking for food. I threw it back in and hoped for no more escapes.

By yesterday morning they had all made a break for it, sliming their way down the pan and onto the counter. One had eaten away a baseball-sized chunk out of our unfinished tax returns, the edges saturated with snail saliva, even more disgusting than the mucus trails leading in all directions. I started yanking the live suction cups off of the dishes and wherever else they had settled, threw them into the pan, and threw the pan outside. Soon they were all gone, or so I thought until I found one today clinging from a dish towel.

Hae said, "I can't believe you let them go and didn't kill them all."

"I didn't let them go. I got them the hell out of the kitchen!" I said.

"Yeah, but you should of killed them."

"Yeah, well, whenever possible, you know, one must err on the side of life..."


Anonymous Okate said...

Lloyd, Dear, the best way to prep a snail for eating is to give it a nice diet of cornmeal. That gets all the toxins out. Use lots of buter and parsley in the saute. I have grown used to them now that I'm unemployed.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Hanh said...

Thanks for making a google search on snails and plastic wrap so much more amazing. Your recollections are hilarious.

9:25 PM  

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