Monday 13 July 2009

Snails, Vegetarians and a Donkey.

I’ve been counting the butterflies fluttering along the 2km track to where I live.

It has been a very non-scientific scientific study that is fraught with ambiguity both in method and reason and which, “sort of” replies to an article in the newspaper that alarmingly claimed that the species was on the verge of near extinction - a combination of wet summers and negligent humans.

Yesterday in their place I found a group of young children accompanied by two adults and three Donkeys. They had decided to stop and picnic in the one certain area of shade and thus impeded my drive home from the market. I stopped, they shuffled and the Donkeys just stared.

It has been suggested that the reason the German Army so successfully invaded France during the Second World War was because they timed their attack for lunchtime. At 12 o’clock there will always be someone who stops WHEREVER they are and starts eating.

It takes several years for an Englishman to adapt but once your stomach feels empty the instant the clock chimes twelve you can feel that you are settling in.

It has also been claimed that the French will eat anything with four legs, except the table – and though this may be a gross stereotype, it is certain that one day your neighbour will feed you snails.

I successfully managed to delay this moment for 10 years, firstly by being a resolute vegetarian and secondly being so grumpy that no one invited me to dinner.

I blame my son for destroying my vegetarianism. I had balanced my own need with his by allowing him to eat whatever came his way – principally in the school canteen. Each evening we would ask him what he had had that day and he would answer –“ I don’t know what it was but it was DELICIOUS.”

In the supermarket one day he was suddenly hungry so I selected a banana from the trolley only for him to refuse it. I broke of a piece of fresh goats cheese but he refused that too.

“I saw something over there’, he said pointing, and lead me to the butcher’s counter.


He practically drooled.

There is a short slippery slope from having a piece of salami in your fridge and having a piece in your mouth.

My neighbours took what seemed to be sadistic delight in inviting me to dinner and serving me snails. My son – Mr Carnivore – refused to even entertain the idea and my hosts’ enthusiasm to see an Englishman suffer, centred on me. My wife just giggled and claimed she was full up from the lettuce.

I suppose it is a right of passage, you have to prove to the locals that you can do it. In fact there is, I think a secret list of steps you need to follow for integration.

1. Say something in French.
2. Discuss mushrooms with a complete stranger.
3. Eat a snail.

Just to show them that I could, I took two.

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