23531 snails for 480 people. That's 49 snails per person. I ate 50 so someone got 1 too few. Sorry. Welcome to the St. Elix d'Astarac Escargolade. Allow me to embellish but at a slightly faster rate than said (deelicious) animal. Oh come on, you didn't really expect to get away with no snail jokes now did you.
Our beloved friend Deirdre, who you have encountered on many occasions if (and why wouldn't you) follow my blog religiously which is not hard to do at the snails pace at which I write, invited us to her village fete / yearly snail do. Peter, Catherine and Steven joined us as well, and we started off with drinks at Deirdre's beautiful riverside mill house (okay, so a water mill has to be next to a river, duh) before going off to the Great Snail Eating Event.
I told another friend of ours (just trying to show you that we have lots of friends) that we were going and she said it was one of those things you have to do in your lifetime. Tick the bucket list thank you very much. Although Dee says why only once, and quite right she is. The invite said 8pm so we left the house at about 8.15pm and were one of the first at 8.30pm. Time slimes by more slowly here. (Can one say more slowly, asks she the English teacher?)
The evening got off to a slow, but interesting and well organized start. Look at the signs in the photo above and tell me what's missing. Got it yet? Come on snails, we haven't got all day. Okay, I'm going to tell you. There's no K! Well, we thought it was funny...
At about 9.30pm food and wine started coming out and it was all SUPER. First there was a choice of Pastis (that vile aniseed liquor that goes white when you pour water on it, shudder) or Muscat (lovely sweet aperitif fortified wine). Then they brought out red and rose wines and at the very end a sweet Champagne (which I didn't try as I didn't want to risk the already risky headache situation) called Die...another reason not to drink it if you ask me.
Okay, I'm slowly slime-ing you along. Let's get to the important bit, The Food. For starters, we had lovely Charente melons with some really FANTASTIC smoked (parma type) ham. It was very, very good and when you think about the masses of people, they didn't skimp on portions or quality. BUT this was just the interlude. The main event was slowly making it's way to our tables and tummies. The Snails.
Deirdre asked the mayor of the village how many snails they had bought in and he said 23531. Not “oh, about 23000”, or “to the tune of 23500”. No, 23531 exactly. I quickly worked out that that amounted to 49 per person and made a note of each one I ate. What can I say, I do it all for you my faithful readers.
I have only ever eaten snails with garlic butter and sometimes with Parmesan added as a huge exception, so I was excited to see how they prepared this huge quantity. And what a fine job they did! The Snails were cooked in a meat and tomato sauce with lots of juice and extra hot sauce. And by French standards it was actually even a bit hot. (I say this because the French are very thrifty in their use of spices and even the thought of chilli will send some into a hot flush.) The Snails and Sauce were deelicious and I ate my weight in them and fresh baguette. Super, super, super. Snailicious.
I am sorry that there are no better photos. I thought I had taken so many, but either I had taken a photo of the servers back rather than the beautiful big bowl of snails, or the person was pulling such a face I felt I couldn't risk them seeing it and beating me up. So that's it as far as photos go I'm afraid. You are just going to have to take my word for it or try and get a much sort after ticket for The Snail Event of the Gers. Or dare I say, France? The world? ...
But the meal did not end there! After gorging ourselves on snails (Catherine says she had 63 snails – what is she like?!), we were served beautifully fresh salad and a big slice of Camembert which I could no longer find a space for (and it would only have squished in my handbag so I was forced to leave it). Then we got a lovely caramel ice cream and even though I'm not really even a dessert person, I liked it a lot. All that food and drink for €20 per person. (UPDATE: I forgot to mention the sausage!!! After the Snails and before the salad, we were served meters of Sausage - just incase the bucket of snails, liter of sauce and kilogram of baguette had not been enough...)
Well done St. Elix! And thank you Deirdre!