The Good Life France Magazine

The Good Life France Magazine brings you the best of France - inspirational and exclusive features, fabulous photos, mouth-watering recipes, tips, guides, ideas and much more...

Published by the award winning team at The Good Life France

1 year ago

Issue No. 19

Delicious sunshine cocktails and scrumptious recipes, brilliant features and tons of information and gorgeous photos to inspire your visits. The secret life of castles in Burgundy, the Abbey of Senanque in Provence, Sainte-Denis, Lourdes, Calvados in Normandy, Paris, Grenoble and more...

Mike is a walking

Mike is a walking encyclopaedia of snail facts and tells me that gastropods have been consumed by man since the first days of humanity. Until the 14th century, says Mike, there were some who thought that snails were in league with the devil “because they had no legs and were close to the ground”. The Church forbad the eating of them and they became the food of the poorest in France, along with frogs’ legs. When famine struck, the church relented but insisted that the snail be “purged of its sins”. They decided the way to do this was to make the snail “spit”, which was done by sprinkling salt which causes the snail to create mucus, a defence mechanism. Though a sustainable resource, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that farming snails in France became automated and industrialised. The industry is now regulated, farming of snails in certain months of the year is forbidden and in 1979 a law was bought in to protect the species. These days that snail spit has a high value – it’s used in medicine and predominantly in cough mixture. There are just three ingredients in it says Mike, water, calcium and basic animal molecule products. “It’s not really slimy at all” he assures me and wipes a snail across the back of my hand and tells me to rub my hands together. He’s right, my skin is left feeling peachy soft, clean and dry - “it’s pure protein” Mike assures me. No wonder cosmetic companies are investigating snail juice in the use of skin cream. “Our ancestors would rub snails on wounds to heal themselves… and if you have a cough, lick one” he urges and offers me a large snail which I decline as politely as possible. He passes its undercarriage over his tongue and it immediately produces spit “it’s really not that bad” he says. I’m not won over.

Success Snail farming It didn’t take long for the locals to discover that despite being British, Mike’s snail farm is one of the best. “Yes, they did think it was crazy that a Brit was growing one of the most French things you could possibly get!” he laughs “I think they came first for the curiosity factor but now they come for the taste”. As a youngster, often relocating with his soldier father, he loved spending time in army kitchens and learned to cook. His biggest success has been to develop “heat and serve” snail dishes and now offers 29 different recipes ranging from the classic classic snails in garlic butter that started him on this route, to snail sausages, smoked snails with goats’ cheese and fig, snails with Roquefort and walnut butter in a wafer case and his “tikka masala snails” and more. His reputation and his clientele have grown and the little shop at the farm has daily queues. He also supplies restaurants and says he was once “flabbergasted to find Chef Steven Raymon of the Michelin star Rouge Barr restaurant in Lille in my shop” The chef bought 3000 snails! This British farmer who’s changing the taste of snails in France is “cook, farmer, recipe developer, salesman, book keeper, negotiator and a whole lot more… no two days are ever the same and you have to expect the unexpected”. Details of the farm and shop address and opening times: escargotsfermiers/

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