Conquering Caracoles

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May 24, 2013 by ebostick1212

I knew it was the season as soon as I started hearing the gentle ‘plink, plink, plink’ of shells against bowl emanating from the tapas bar just outside my bedroom window.

Sure enough, the next day, the signs went up.  Everywhere I turned there was a chalkboard, a poster, or a handmade sign emblazoned with the words ‘HAY CARACOLES’.  Often,  these words were accompanied by a cartoony drawing of a smiling snail.  Something tells me that the snails around here right now are not smiling.

Here in Andalucía, it is snail season, and around every corner, there is a tapas bar, selling them, boiled in an aromatic broth, and ready to be slurped straight from the shell.
‘Ok, this is a cultural experience.  You have to try them….even though you generally hate everything that comes in a shell…clams…mussels…oysters…shrimp…just give this one a try.’

And with that, I settled in to my seat at a bar in the park and ordered up a steaming bowl of caracoles in their green-gray broth.  After a quick tutorial on how to get the little gastopod out of his shell, I reluctantly slurped away.  The snail slid easily from its home, and wiggled its way down my throat.

‘Not bad’, I thought.

Correct snail slurping method.

Correct snail slurping method

The truth was, I didn’t love them.  I wasn’t repulsed, or anything, but they just didn’t taste like much.  The broth, which everyone here fawns over, didn’t do much for me either.  I was expecting it to have more flavor, but it just felt like I was eating these slimy little morsels bathed in salty water.  Maybe it is because I killed off my taste buds biting into broiling hot pizza one to many times.  While I wouldn’t go out and pay for a tapa of snails, I might steal a few off of someone else’s plate.

What I’ve come to realize, here, especially in Andalucía, is that the people are pickers.  They love food that requires a tremendous amount of work.  The roads are constantly littered with sunflower seed shells, and snails are a hot item.  It seems that it isn’t completely about the taste, but more the experience.  It is something to do with your hands while you enjoy a cerveza and good conversation with a friend.

I guess this can be equated to that bowl of peanuts you find in American bars, but with all the outrage over people dipping into them without washing their hands, I figure that is far more disgusting than the rather benign taste of a snail or two.

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