Soup’s On!

Soup’s On!

Where were the snails? I eyed the soup nervously, hoping they would be easy to spot. Mr. Bill had already tucked into the fragrant bisque with abandon. I was surprised by Mr. Bill’s enthusiasm, when our friend Jill, served us soup made with escargot. This was a revelation to me. Fifty-two years on and I am still learning things about Mr. Bill. I never knew he liked escargot.

On one memorable vacation, Mr. Bill and I had dined with snails, but not on them. Every evening snails crashed our dinners in the kitchen garden of an old French farmhouse, along the Canal du Midi. As soon as the wine was poured, the uninvited guests would arrive silently under the cover of darkness. The thirsty creatures would be scaling our wine glasses before we noticed them. We let them be. We found it amusing and not at all alarming. After all, they were French snails and had a nose for a good vintage. Mr. Bill did not offer them a glass but neither did he eat them. Now, I was astonished to see him gobbling them with relish.

Escargots may be a delicacy, yet the thought of swallowing a slimy body made me queasy. I glanced around the table; our hosts Jill and Ken, friends Cathy, Herb, Barbara, Jamie and Mr. Bill were all enjoying the first course. Gingerly, I dipped my spoon into the steaming bowl, bravely repeating to myself, the words of grandson Billy’s beloved Sister Consulta, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”! With this sage advice, the kindly cook at Gianelli’s pre school, had coaxed generations of picky young eaters, to try new foods. Wanting to do the good sister proud, I swallowed. The soup was delicious. Relieved, I took another mouthful. There was sausage in the soup and I devoured all the spicy chunks, with a gulp of the garlicky broth. No snails revealed themselves. Next, I skimmed the tender white beans onto my spoon, confident that I had only legumes and no mollusks. The level in the bowl was getting lower, but still no suspicious, gelatinous lumps had appeared. There were greens floating in the soup. I wondered, could the snails be hiding underneath? Carefully I captured and consumed the ribbons of leafy vegetables. No snails. Soon only the savory liquid remained. Had the snails melted? If yes, then I had to admit, that I too liked escargot.

Driving home, Mr. Bill waxed nostalgic over the escargot soup, declaring it as good as his grandmother’s. Once again I was taken aback, as he had never spoken of this dish, when reminiscing about his grandmother Sophia’s cooking. It was her, ‘melt in your mouth’ homemade pasta, lasagna, tomato sauce, and pasta e fagioli soup, that Mr. Bill had spoken of with longing through the years, but not escargot soup. I couldn’t take it another minute and demanded to know why, he had never mentioned, that his grandmother made escargot soup. “Why, she added escarole to her soups ALL the time”, Mr. Bill informed me, as if it were no big deal. You mean eh saar go, I corrected, giving him my best French pronunciation for escargot. “No, it’s es ka roll “, he countered in Italian, patiently articulating each syllable. Fine. Whatever. Just to be clear, I switched to English saying,”We are talking about snails aren’t we”? “NO”! Mr. Bill was aghast, explaining that the soup was not escargot but escarole, a leafy green vegetable. Oh.

Well then, I wish I had seconds!

A Good Vintage for Snails
Moving faster without the shell!

Thirsty Snail
While Bacon begs, a stealthy snail climbs up the table base.
The Canal du Midi, where snails are dinner guests.
More Wine or More Snails?
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12 Responses to Soup’s On!

  1. Kc Armour says:

    Great story! I remember the snails at “Camont”…Like it was yesterday!
    🐌 I can understand the mistake between escarole and escargot!


  2. Lois Riloff says:

    Very funny and well done!  Also, brought back fond memories of my days walking along the Canal du Midi


    • I’m afraid Lois, that I would have been one of your earnest but hopeless students. When you taught Home Economics, did you explain the difference between escarole and escargot? That would have been an interesting lesson. Strolling along the Canal du Midi is definitely a memory to treasure. XO Maureen


  3. Muriel Wagner says:

    Once again, another gre


  4. queenvic72 says:

    This really made me chuckle!!


  5. Janis says:

    Not in the junk mail this time! Snails or not….it makes a great story and great soup!


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