May 16th, 2012
Nope. Can´t do it. In over 6 years here in Spain, sampling all kinds of Spanish food, I have run the gauntlet of strange and wonderful food served in a variety of surroundings eating anything from Pigs Feet to Pigs …..well…. parts! But caracoles – snails – I cannot bring myself to eat! I like the sauce, I like the garlicky smell, I even like the first taste, but the texture and – eugh -the idea of the little horns mean a mouthful ends up… in the bin. But Spaniards – and many tourists – maybe even you? – think otherwise, and these little creatures are consumed in Spain with - literally – gusto. Even to the point of having their very own Festival!!
Yes, really! La Federació de Colles de l’Aplec del Caragol which is the Federation of Snail Festival Social Clubs gathers every year at the end of May. The aim is to consume more than 12 tonnes of snails, at the Aplec del Caragol- the Snail Festival. Click this link for a short video showing the Lleida Snail Festival
Where´s the slippery venue?
Crawl up – sorry! – to west Catalonia, and discover Leida, capital city of the province of the same name. One of the oldest destinations in Catalonia, with a history dating from the Bronze Age.
The university here is the third oldest in the whole of Spain – and there are plenty more things to do and see here in addition to the Snail Fest! They also have their own dialect (the people not the snails) but you will manage fine with your trusty Spanish phrasebook!
What are the main sights?
- El Roser – a 13th century convent
- Museum of Lleida – where you can see those Bronze Age artefacts on show
- Cathedral Seu Vella – a blend of Romanesque and Gothic
- Church of Sant Lorenç – a well preserved 12th century Romanesque church
- Cathedral Seu Nova – Baroque
- Palau de la Suda – an Arab Palace
- Sala Mercat del Pla – the Art Gallery
- Gardeny – the 12th century Hill Fortress, once used by the Knights Templars
- La Paeria – Historic settlement with Roman artefacts, also now the City Council HQ.
Back to the Horny Issue
But of course, we´re here to eat snails…..
The Festival this year kicks off on the 25th of this month and runs – or crawls – until the 27th.
Those 12 tonnes of Caracoles are shipped in from all over Spain – a local business here in my village in the Alpujarras sends a lorry load – it´s been going since 1980 when a small group of friends started the ball rolling. North Africa and South America also send more Gastropods.
Helix Pomatia and Limax agrestis amongst others are devoured with delight – in fact – more types of snail than you could shake a slug at!
An area is set aside with dishes and cauldrons bubbling – snails cooked in many different ways,in various sauces and herbs – for you to buy and try. It´s all about trying something new, getting together and having a good time. Basically, something the Spanish are very good at!
There´s music and entertainment, Castells- those Catalan human towers – exhibitions and competitions…in fact something for everyone!
Even Snails have History!
Snails in fact have been eaten as far back as Roman times, and have been used from everything from Aphrodisiacs to Famine food – a great source of protein for poor country folk and Roman Emperors alike!
They have been seen as both a symbol of laziness - so slo-o-o-o-w! – and used in Divination. Cupid´s Arrow is said to be based on the early observation of the love dart behaviour of the Land Snail. So, please don´t be sluggish! Use email as opposed to Snail Mail and ensure your place at this years Aplec del Caragol 2012! All you have to do is….
So, even if you´re not wowed by the thought of eating those slippery suckers – enjoy the music,the entertainment, the company…and most of all, enjoy Lleida! Send us back a postcard – by snail mail of course!
All photos via Flickr from calafellvalo