The history of the escargot in the U.S.

Much like Joan Rivers or processed cheese slices, everyone thinks that snails are natives to our landscape, something that has been here since time immemorial. However Cornus aspersum (sometimes argued over by snail scientist types as Helix aspersa or to you and me simply as the common brown garden snail) are actually fairly recent interlopers to North America. Theories abound: one states that a lonely Frenchman, craving the comfort foods of home, brought over the snails with him when settling in California. Another claims that Spanish missionaries, likeImagewise craving a little something from home—this time a tippling of the grape—brought over grapevines infested with the little shelled creatures. But more than likely, the snails came here at various times and multiple ports of entry, often latched on to imported plants, millions more as eggs embedded in the soil. What is agreed on is the occasional devastation they’ve wreaked on our likewise imported agriculture, though I tend to blame our also imported slugs as bigger culprits. The USDA has, perhaps rightly in some cases, banned any interstate transport of live snails or their eggs. Once loosed into the environment, they are practically impossible to eradicate. However, after at least 150 years on our soil, they are irrevocably a part of our ecosystem now, much like Joan Rivers, so we might as well use them to our benefit. Unlike Joan, I won’t be enjoying her doused in butter.

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