#38 Of banana slugs and the escargette
August 03rd, 2015
A modest proposal is made to introduce a new delicacy for the gourmets of the world.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. Our Premier wants to spend billions of dollars on LNG even though the bottom just dropped out of the market. To facilitate the spending of those billions she wants to spend more billions on Site C dam to provide electricity we won’t need and can’t sell.
A few billion here, a few billion there, and the first thing you know you’re talking real money. You’d think we had some. To listen to her plans for spending it, you’d think we had too much of it.
And, somehow, the justification for it all is jobs, jobs, jobs. Well, I have this project I’ve been trying to get off the ground for years, maybe she’ll give me some investment money, some fiscal encouragement.
In France, people are very fond of snails. They call them Escargot. In the deli section of some supermarkets you can now buy sealed plastic baggies of sterilized snail shells. Then you buy these little cans of imported escargot, about the same size as a can of Copenhagen snuff and damned near as pricey as caviar. The idea is you open the can and put one little snail in a shell and add lots ‘n’ lots of garlic, butter, and parsley, then, when you’ve covered your cookie sheet with them, you put them in the oven and heat them. You can even buy cute little two-pronged forky things to dig ’em out of the shell and eat them.
I’m not making this up.
Some years ago a guy down near Shawnigan Lake tried to farm escargot. He set up a sort of glorified kids wading pond and fed the escargot lawn clippings and the trimmings from the lettuce and cabbage and such down at the market. I don’t have any idea how well it might have worked but from what I was told the wind flipped off the cover one stormy night and his escargot escaped and have gone wild.
Gawd, the mere idea of a stampede of escaped escargot, a herd or a horde of them setting out with their hearts and minds focussed on our gardens. It’s chilling, really. Alongside Australian rabbits and cane toads, or those Chinese carp which, when excited, leap through the air as if flying and are as apt as not to land in your boat. Snails don’t seem like a credible invasive species threat but we already have slugs, and they can ravage your bok choi overnight.
Which has got me thinking. [Sometimes when I start thinking my adult children and even my minor grandchildren yell. “Lock the doors and windows, she’s at it again!”] What is a slug but a snail with a housing crisis?
There are all those bags of shells in the “imported” section of the deli. We can’t call them escargot because they aren’t, and anyway France would raise all manner of hell. Look how far they went when someone called made-in-USA plonk “champagne”. The French won that one, what with it being a province in France where the stuff is made. But just as the English got around it by calling their version Champale, I have a modest proposal. We can call ours Escargette.
We rinse them in salty water to get rid of the worst of the slime, then pack ’em in itty-bitty cans. Make gift packs of those cute little plates with the little scoops where you put the escargot if you haven’t been able to buy those shells… each town or electoral district or regional district could have their own souvenir plate-thing and their own TM (registered) name like, oh, Coombes Creepers (with a picture of the café with the goats on the roof) or maybe Spuzzum Sprinters (with a scenic mountain and stream).
You get the idea… Swarms of kids out there before the school bus comes, with ice cream buckets, picking slugs at a penny per. We could have collection depots all over the town. Unemployed sawmill workers would have hours each morning and evening, when the slugs are most active. And hey, slugs seem to love the scent and taste of beer so that would work well for collector and collectee.
We could go into specialty items… Banana slugs might taste different than, say, those brown ones with the orange belly. There might be a different texture to the ones which are wrinkly and jet black, you know, the ones which look like chopped up skidder tires.
I do think when it comes to the giant northwest blotchety ones we’re going to have to filet them. Escargette Steaks, maybe put them in a different style of can. I’m thinking here of those ovoid cans that sardines come in, you know, with their own little key to open them. Sell them already bathed in a butter redolent with the pungent aroma of garlic and more garlic.
It’s not going to take billions and billions of dollars for the jobs, jobs, jobs. We can get masses of population out in the boonies collecting our Escargette. And then the canning process will require workers. Someone has to design the labels. Shipping and handling is going to require workers with a degree of computer skills.
Voila (to continue with the Gallic influence). We’ve got scads of people working, we’ve got jobs, jobs, jobs, instead of billions going into the pockets of off-shore money mavens who don’t produce anything. We don’t mortgage our great-grandchildren’s futures with umpty-billion dollars of debt. And if we’re all making money, we can pay taxes. If the taxes aren’t going into destroying agricultural land and enraging the First Nations we might even pay down the debt.
And all the foodies in Vancouver who are so thrilled to do what their grandmothers used to do—grow a potato and eat it—would be delighted to endorse the escargette as a morally superior food because it’s locally grown.
Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.