Snails are deeply underrated creatures. Their intelligence exceeds that of many insects and mollusks and they make fantastic pets. I would know. I have ten happy French garden snails living in a bamboo palm in my apartment in Paris. They each have distinct personalities and favor certain snails as friends or mates. How did I get into snails as pets? It all started four years ago in an underground grocery store in Paris's Chinatown where I spotted a little brown garden snail trapped inside a bag of spinach. I discreetly made a hole in the bag, liberated him, named him Slugly and brought him home. Unfortunately, he died tragically in a freak climbing accident. After Slugly, my boyfriend and I acquired ten snails.
Charles Darwin even remarked on the respective intelligence of snails and their ability to remember other snails and people years later. He also observed a snail escaping its tank and then returning the next night to lead all the other snails down the same path to freedom.
Our snails recognize us over other people. Some are adventurous, some shy and they spend hours engaging in foreplay that consists of giving each other tiny kisses. And not to worry, we are very aware of the gender needs of snails as hermaphrodites and make sure to raise them gender-neutral...
The French in particular might find my keeping snails as pets quite crazy considering that they make up one of France's most renowned culinary offerings, Escargot à la Bourguignonne, snails in a garlic herbed butter sauce. Snails are so pervasive in French food culture that you can even find them in the frozen food sections at grocery stores, shell and all. (And in pseudo sarcasm, my boyfriend always tells me to avert my eyes whenever we pass this grizzly, frozen sight)
I decided to come up with an alternative work of culinary snail-activism: Escar-non! Because would you continue eating rabbit after you got a pet bunny? Exactly.
By employing the same culinary techniques and flavors as the classic dish, but replacing the snails with stuffed mushroom caps, the result is even more delicious. I hope that I have plead enough guilt upon you for eating these loving little creatures so that you might consider choosing the more humane, mushroom-based option.
Proportions can be adjusted to party size
Onion, 1 medium-size
Garlic, 5-6 cloves
Cilantro or Parsley, small handful
Coconut oil, 3 tablespoons
Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC
Remove stems from mushrooms and dice finely.
Dice the onion, garlic and cilantro or parsley.
Set two of the three garlic cloves aside. These will be used for the garlic herb mixture.
Sauté the diced onion, mushroom stems and the rest of the garlic until soft.
Combine the cilantro or parsley and diced garlic with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and mix.
Place mushrooms in greased baking dish. Coat the insides of the mushroom caps with garlic herb mixture.
Once diced mushroom stems, onions and garlic are cooked through, place a spoonful of the mixture inside each cap.
Add a small spoonful of garlic herb mixture on top.
Bake for 20–30 minutes and serve warm.