Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Escargots that got away

A fellow knitter gave a tip in her blog about letting clams sit overnight in cornmeal which apparently entices the clams to expel all sand. The tip reminded me of the tale of the escargots that got away.

From 1977-1980 the family lived in Southern California, northwest of LA off Highway 101, between Thousand Oaks and Ventura. Like most homes, ours was built with others on top of a hill of which the top had been lopped off in order to build more homes on it. We had bought a ranch home with a fenced in back yard, with the obligatory pool, a side yard with an orange tree, the front suitably gated and the freezer and washer and dryer in the Garage. We were young; the oldest was in junior high and the two girls in sixth and second grade.

The large strawberry fields in Ventura County enticed me to plant some in the side yard. They bloomed and started forming berries which I eagerly inspected daily to see if they were ready yet for eating. They were starting to ripen and at some point I decided that the next day was the proper time to pick them. My taste buds were ready for the feast as I went out to pick my bounty. But nary a strawberry was left. Instead I had luscious green strawberry plants with snails attached to the stems. The snails were faster than I had been and had already feasted.

By chance I had read an article in a Southern California Living issue which had suggested that a less expensive way to obtain escargots was to collect the snails in your own gardens, place them on a bed of cornmeal to purge their systems and then prepare them suitably. Since the little scamps had eaten my strawberries, I was ready to eat them. I covered the bottom of a baking pan with cornmeal and then the harvest began. As assurance that they would not wander off, I wrapped the pan with several layers of cheese cloth, wrapped masking tape around the whole thing and set them under one of the bushes overnight. I figured that way they were not going to escape my grasp.

Wrong the second time around. By morning, they all had escaped. Only holes in the cheesecloth were testament to their previous presence. They had managed to somehow push through the cheesecloth and high tail it to places unknown. Bye bye strawberries, adieu snails. We moved the following January back to Ohio.

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