Rain yesterday, snails today. But not in my cooking pot. Maltese edible snails are traditional ‘after the rain’ pickings for some though!
Today is a perfect autumnal Malta day of deep blue skies with a few threatening clouds scurrying past on the horizon. Yesterday morning though saw torrential rain at exactly the time I have to do the school run, 0730. On my homeward route I had eyes glued to the car in front to see exactly where it hit deep water almost aqua-surfing along. The four-wheeler took the flood water in its stride; I had to go at snail’s pace, gingerly weaving to higher ground, whichever side of the road it happened to be on. My old-timer doesn’t like rain. But snails do. And yesterday I was on common ground with them, speed wise that is.
Today, the same route home under blue skies and time to admire the vegetation just beginning to take winter hold on the nicely doused verges. Fennel sprouting ready for me to nip the tips for a long-awaited pasta inspired by my recent Palermo trip. Another week and it’ll be long enough. While eyeing the burgeoning herbs, I spotted an old couple bent double pecking around and picking up things from a dry stone wall. For a moment, I couldn’t think what they were up to; then it dawned on me. After the rain, come the snails to forage.
Easy pickings then for some folk here in Malta, who like the odd snail broth. Not exactly something I can quite bring myself to eat but it is a fairly common sight to stumble across in rural bars. Veggie shops will have baskets of loose, dry snails – you just grab a handful and get them weighed. I’ve always viewed them with a shudder although my hubby’s extended family here is very keen on the odd snail as hors d’oeuvre. Traditional bars that serve rabbit stew often hand out little plates of snails cooked in garlic, tomato and parsley and sometimes cooked in red or white wine; the perfect bite-size appetizer while you await your order.
Snails were being cooked up in large steel catering pans at a late summer wine and grape fest in my village. I snapped a couple of wobbly photos as I jostled the crowd, eagerly peering to see what they were queuing for. A long queue too. Beer and Bebbux (snails in Maltese, pronounced “beb-boo-sh”) seemed order of the evening.
Today happens to be International Food Photography Day. My food photo servings today are among my quirkiest food shots. With a kitchen in disarray as a new fridge arrives and with an oven that literally collapsed on me last weekend, I can’t rustle up my own food to photo to mark the day. But the bebbux out as early as I was this morning might be food for thought and food for someone today, if not me!
Photo note: the snails on leaves in my photos above just happened to be sitting where they were. No creative slight of hand on my part positioning them! The prickly pear was in my garden for another shoot, and early one morning, I looked out and saw this snail right on the top. The mum and baby on the bay leaves came in by accident when I clipped some herbs to put in a soup. I spared them being ‘secret ingredients’, and returned them to my bay tree in tact.
If you’d like to cook up snails this traditional Maltese way, here’s a good snail ‘stew’ recipe I came across.