Morelia‘s a fairly sophisticated city, as far as cities of its size in Mexico go. And its culinary offerings just keep on amazing me. One Moreliana, twenty years my junior, tells me that she can remember the time when there was no Comercial Mexicana, when everyone shopped at the Mercado Independencia, and when broccoli was considered exotic fare, available only by driving to San Miguel de Allende.
Between Costco, Comercial Mega, and Superama, Belgian endive, yellow tomatoes, frozen ostrich, white eggplant, dried seaweed, Arborio rice, wasabi in a tube, anguilas (baby eel), giant fish eggs, and canned escargot can be had on any day of the week. But one thing’s missing.
But first I must digress.
Growing up in Southern California in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, I developed a broad range of tastes, in large part to my mother’s belief in Sunset magazine as the Bible for Good Living. Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping were for proles, she said. As for Family Circle and Woman’s Day, well, let’s not go there. Whenever Sunset magazine hit the mailbox, it would be a matter of days before the latest recipe would find its way onto the dinner table. We grew up eating squid, making tofu and pita, and curing olives before any of those activities became fashionable.
And then appeared in Sunset’s very pages an article about transforming slimy garden pests into dinner fare. My mother could hardly contain herself, challenged now by a prospect which exceeded the thrill of making us bento boxes for school lunches. For several days, she eagerly plucked snails from the yard, placing them in a bucket filled with cornmeal, just as instructed by Sunset magazine, and told us eating snails was all the rage in France. I prayed for an earthquake, for an atomic bomb to hit us, for bubonic plague to eradicate us, anything to prevent the day of reckoning when she would actually serve us snails for dinner. Fortunately, as the days passed, luck struck, and we heard no more about the snails. The bucket on the patio disappeared. It was better not to ask, although we made sure not to eat meatloaf or spaghetti sauce or anything in which the snails might’ve been disguised in the weeks following. She never brought up the snails again, and, looking back, I surmise that she may have lost the nerve.
Andy Becker didn’t, and in his Salon article “Adventures in Snail Hunting,” he takes off where my mother left off. His blog, Wall Fish, is devoted to backyard exploration and snail hunting. I do not want to eat dinner at his house.
My siblings and I all fled at the earliest opportunity to a snail-free Iowa, where we were just as aghast to find Maid-Rite loose meat sandwiches and canned green bean casserole were considered gourmet. And, after a polite interval, we each ran away as far as we could.
My garden in Morelia has snails, and lots of them. I fancy the notion of wearing stiletto heels as I pluck and squish them, but now I’m wondering if I’m squandering an important revenue source. I haven’t seen any fresh snails for sale in all of Morelia. Should I approach the best restaurants in town to see if anyone’s interested?