Friday 22 September 2023

Snails - Love or Loathe Them?

 Do you Love or Hate them?

As we come into the last week of September, the weather here in our Village has certainly been very kind.

Daytimes, warm, sunny and sometimes humid, around 28c - 30c - perfect sunbathing and swimming weather for our visitors. I too enjoy September, comfortably warm and cooler nights meaning no air conditioning either resulting in a long peaceful sleep too.

As the sun drops you notice the cooler temperatures, around 19c - 21c however still warm enough to sit outside, pour a glass of chilled white wine whilst watching the stars slowly appear in a clear night sky and they twinkle overhead.

The other evening enjoying this quietness I was aware of the patter of rain on the garden trees breaking the silence  and yes we had a few drops of rain thus dampening the soil in the garden and our numerous plants pots  but then THEY emerged.  Yep Snails!!!

I appreciate these are considered a delicacy in many countries, Escargots in France with Garlic and Butter  Caragols in Spain, Portugal and the Catalonia Areas - served as a casserole.  And yes, here too in Greece.  

Although not something you will see often on many menus here,  several areas enjoy a Snail Cassarole - Stiffado style. Tomatoes, Onions, Garlic and Snails.  In Crete often served with Spinach and Rice.

So this takes me back to a time when I lived on the beautiful Greek island of Spetses, a small island which is part of the Argo-Saronic chain. I was living with a Greek family who ran small Pension Style apartments whilst I was a rep for a well known British Tour company. 

It was late September after a typical long, hot and dry Summer the heavens opened and the island welcomed and danced as the dry soil was plunged with the first heavy rain, however within an hour the sun broke through.  It was late afternoon and the son of the owner said ''Ella'' - come - jump on my moped but first bring a bag as we need to go and collect?  Collect what I said - He replied Saliggaria.  Back then almost, 25 years ago my understanding of Greek was limited to work related issues.  I could ask for a Plumber, Electrician or a cleaner to provide more towels but what was Saliggaria??  I was soon to find out and further improve my vocabulary!!

We drove 10 kilometres along the coast on his moped - there are no cars on this island other than a few taxis and 2 minibuses used for holidaymakers arriving in the harbour of Dapia to reach their accommodation.  Spetses, is reached via Athens and then from the port of Piraeus by catching a Hydrofoil (known as Flying Dolphins) or a much longer and cheaper option of a ferry boat. The island has around 4,000 population and is 24 kilometres of coast line.  Small, traditional and very popular too with Athenian weekend visitors, many having their own Villas on the island.

We arrived and he parked his moped under a tree, looked like a Walnut tree to me.  Ah I thought we are collecting Walnuts!  Now I really like Walnuts with my Greek thick yoghurt and local honey so I was imaging  healthy breakfasts before walking to my office in the harbour every morning. But NO!! He cried out Yes, punching the air -  over here lots here as he shoved 2 or 3 snails in the bag.  This continued for an hour maybe more and then before the sun finally dipped we arrived back at his parents house.  His mother was delighted as she washed the sand from the snails, lined a plastic fish style tank with kitchen paper poured in the numerous snails and closed with a lid.  I could see the snails had started to crawl up the plexiglass, sorry but I really couldn't stomach this any longer so went outside for a cigarette.  

I was invited the following day for lunch after my morning shift, I politely declined saying I had an emergency with some guests I needed to sort out and would grab a Tiropitta instead as I just knew what would be served for lunch.

So this week, after our light rainfall here, memories invaded my silence, as I watched the snails in our garden emerge from the soil climbing up towards our newly seeded Winter lettuces. I do apologise for lovers of Snails and this delicacy but I crushed them.  I didn't want to cook or eat them and I also didn't want them to devour my Winter Salad Lettuce either - hence the photo of snails within my blog are Stock Photos.

Kalo Orexi, Bon Appetit for those that do appreciate this delicacy though..........

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