When you think of snails, France is sure to come to mind. Indeed, some 30,000 tonnes of snails are eaten in France each year. But the UK is catching up.
Britons now consume 750,000 snails a year. Small fry in comparison, certainly, but that’s a jump from less than 30,000 in 1990. We have come a long way in the last 20 years or so.
The traditional Burgundian dish of snails in garlic butter served with a crusty baguette has been changing too. It has been joined by a raft of newcomers to the culinary table.
Earlier this year, in Rouen, I had the choice of 13 different ways of having a plate of snails.
In Britain, Heston Blumenthal has gone further, leading the way with his snail porridge. Other chefs, meanwhile, have been serving dishes as varied as snail pizza, snail spaghetti and snail koftas.
As with sparkling wines, we have learnt from across the Channel. Our soil and climate are similar to those of northern France, so it follows that we should be able to produce many of the same things. In fact, many of the snails that end up in British hotels and restaurants now are raised here.
That said, the biggest growers of snails are – perhaps surprisingly – countries such as Poland and Serbia. If you want a snail, it seems, go east.