Roland Escargots Snails

Jay International Foods
3172 South Grand Boulevard

Jay International Foods

Seen a foodstuff you're too timid to try? Malcolm will eat it! E-mail particulars to [email protected]

A columnist friend once told me that writing a column is like being married to a nymphomaniac: The first month is bliss; then the work begins. Though I'd never written a column, the description seemed apt. So these days, whenever I see some poor soul called upon to produce 800 words of original writing three times a week resort to the old, allow-me-to-respond-to-my-readers shtick, it only means one thing: The guy's burned out.

That said, this is Keep It Down! — the column where I eat it so you don't have to. Take Joe, who writes:

"I have always wondered what the escargot in a can tastes like from Jay's International Foods on South Grand. It's been sitting on the same shelf for about as long as I can remember, and the great thing about this product is that it comes with snail shells to scoop the snails into for a gourmet presentation, I guess.

"Well, I'm just too timid to try it. Can you keep it down?"

Can I Keep It Down?! Ha! And how!

Roland Escargots Snails proves simple enough to locate. It's one of the tallest products on the shelf, with a clear plastic tube of snail shells atop a potted-meat-style can of snails. The thick film of dust atop the snail tube bears testament to Joe's elephantine memory.

Roland Escargots Snails requires a more complicated preparation than your typical can-to-mouth fare. For starters, the directions instruct you to sterilize the shells — not an encouraging serving suggestion. You are then to make a garlic, parsley and butter sauce. This is a definite stretch of my heat 'n' eat rules, but by Jo(v)e I made a promise, and so I dutifully draw the butter.

As the garlic begins to release its aroma, I'm starting to look forward to my Roland Escargots Snails. But when I apply can opener to tin, a milky liquid wells up from the can, like watered-down coconut milk, or a glass of skim milk poured into a basin of soiled dishwater. Whatever it is, this liquid would definitely make the no-fly list. Black as night and smelling like an unwashed organ, the snails are packed tight in their fluid mausoleum. With a little water and a lot of courage, I extract the fleshy orbs.

They say that snails are hermaphrodites, outfitted for double duty and capable of producing both sperm and egg. Still, to my anthropomorphic eye, these firm little land mollusks have the distinct look of our fairer sex. Stuffing them in their (sterile) shells, I baste them with butter and pop them in the oven, preheated to 400 degrees. The snails expand, exchanging their garden medium of fertilizer, mulch and mud for the savory intensity of garlic, parsley and butter.

Of course, the transformation isn't complete, and on the palate the snails' past lives occasionally betray themselves via a gritty bit of garden sand or a pocket of unseasoned snail flesh. Overall, though, Roland Escargots Snails are a pronounced improvement over my usual canned animal diet.

Still, only two snails in and the work has begun: My honeymoon with the dusky hermaphrodite has ended.

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