Escar-NO! (Brus IV) 

This is the fourth post about my Brussels trips. The first part can be found here. 

The aforementioned map supplied by the hostel recommended a car park as a notable tourist destination. You’ve got to love the Belgians. They really know how to sell a city: 

Tourist: “So, tell me, what great highlights does Brussels have to offer?” 

Local: “Well, there’s a multi-storey car park you simply have to see!” 

Obviously a car park isn’t your average tourist destination (unless you’re really into car parks, I suppose). But the point wasn’t to see the car park. It was what you could see from the car park. The top level offered a great panorama of the city. So, while in the area, I thought I’d take a look. It was true; there was plenty to see, including some South Park chimneys: 

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On the other side was this view: 

Brussels10

“Hmm…Christmas market,” I thought to myself. I was feeling a little peckish, and it seemed an ideal place to get some food (and gluewhein). So, after grabbing some photos, I headed down to take a look. 

It was pretty busy. Upon entering I joined a mass of slow-moving people as they edged their way around the market. There were lots of stalls selling food and trinkets, as well as fairground rides. I even spotted a stall selling escargot. I’d never tried them before but wasn’t sure. I was hungry, but I wanted something a bit more filling. I was hoping I’d be able to find something unusual, perhaps some traditional Belgian faire that I’d never heard of. I slowly crawled my way around the market (while routinely topping up on gluewheins). I couldn’t find anything that took my fancy. All the interesting looking foods didn’t look very filling and all the filling foods didn’t look very interesting. Eventually, after completing a full circuit of the market at a snail’s pace, I found myself back where I’d started: at the escargot stall.  

I stopped and watched as the squidgy bits of flesh were served up to the enthusiastic patrons. I do like to try new foods, and I was unlikely to get many such opportunities. Also, I did want to try something a bit unusual after all. After a minute or so of weighing up my options I shrugged and decided to have my first try of snails.  

They were served in a cardboard cup along with some kind of vegetable stock. I don’t think I looked as keen as the patrons I’d previously been watching as I, with trepidation, handed over my Euros. While walking away I began prodding the unappetising-looking lumps of flesh with my wooden fork. The enthusiasm with which they bobbed back up to the stock’s surface stood in stark contrast with my enthusiasm for their return. I was unsure as to whether I’d made the right choice. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I speared one of the bobbing lumps with my fork, lifted it from its vegetable bath and eyed it suspiciously for a moment before placing it in my mouth. I then began to chew. And chew. And chew. 

It was okay, but it was also exactly what I expected. The texture was like squishy, half-cooked fusilli pasta and it tasted a bit sea-foodie. It was also quite spongy. It took a fair amount of chewing before it was ready for swallowing. The stock, meanwhile, was nice. It was quite spicy. I speared another snail. 

I was clearly a bit of a snail eating novice. After resolutely chewing my way through about half a dozen of them I began to suspect that you’re not supposed to eat the sole of the foot. It was a hard, crunchy, wafer-like material. I stopped and prodded the floating balls of flesh again while wondering what to do with the foot. Looking around for inspiration I spotted a nearby guy casually tearing off the foot with his teeth and discarding it on the floor. I then looked around and realised I was surrounded by hundreds of discarded snail’s feet. Clearly, I was right. You’re not supposed to eat that bit. I changed tactic and began tearing off the feet. To be honest, it didn’t produce any great improvements in their palatability.  

In case you haven’t sensed already, I didn’t really like them. But I’d committed myself, so I was determined to finish them anyway. The portion initially struck me as a little miserly. But after spending quite some time doggedly chewing my way through the rubbery flesh I conceded that the portion was in fact ample. It actually took me quite a while to get through them all. Despite this, they weren’t very filling. By the time I’d finally finished I was glad for having given them a try, but they hadn’t satisfied my hunger. So I gave up on the exotic food and went for the filling food – I bought a burger. I then grabbed a gluwhein refill and wandered off to explore more of the city. Oh well, at least I’d given them a try. He who dares Rodney… 

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About lanceleuven


One response to “Escar-NO! (Brus IV) 

  • Suzanne

    A brave man. I saw a kiosk selling escargot and white wine in Metz, France last year at their Xmas market but passed on the opportunity despite, as you saw, observing several enthusiastic patrons wolfing down the little buggers. Not floating in broth but looking more (French?) traditional – green globs of goo stuffed into shells with (likely more than their little bodyweight in) garlic. I opted instead for an hot open-face half baguette smothered in jambon, cheese and black olives. Not so adventurous but definitely Yum!

    Like

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