this is not a snail

this poor guy got sold among a handful of sea snails by the local shellfish merchant. but he was not, in fact, an “escargot de mer.” he was a hermit crab squatter who had broken into someone else’s house and was living there in flagrant disregard. in theory, from a purely legal perspective, he had it coming. but i wish we’d found him earlier, before he’d been cooked in saltwater and a teaspoon of pastis, and could have set him free to continue  breaking the law in his stolen house.

hermit crab

mediterranean, france

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climatic correctness

this can’t be wild asparagus, i told jean-luc. wild asparagus ferns are feathery and soft. these are prickly and just drew blood from my middle finger. they must be some other plant. no, in fact, they are wild asparagus, and even this gentle plant has thorns here. or leaves so dense from intense sunlight that they act like thorns. it’s the equivalent of the woody, dense, brushy wild thyme we find in the garrigue here, compared to the soft feathery thyme of short, mostly mild, minnesota summers. there’s a reason everything tastes stronger here. the sun seems to pull extra flavor from almost everything.

wild asparagus (asparagus acutifolius)

autignac, france

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hidden depths

my son joseph gathered these mermaid’s purses for me when we were at the beach saturday evening. they were dried, and covered in crusted beach gunk, and they appeared mostly matte black. when we got home, i placed them in a bowl of salt water just to loosen the beach gunk so I could wipe them clean. i figured their shape alone had earned them the right to be a STILL blog subject. but after a quick salt water soak, and against a white background, theses caramel, coffee, and cognac colors suddenly emerged. i feel like i just won the egg case lottery. a lottery ticket i would totally buy, by the way, if someone were selling them.

shark or ray egg cases

la corniche plage, sète, france

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open season

i naturally look at snails primarily as a natural, bioregional phenomenon in certain ecosystems. they have scientific significance and make up a certain stratum of the food chain, eating plants and in turn being eaten by other animals. that is how one thinks about snails where i come from. but the first thing that occurs to our french friends when they see a snail is, first, whether it is fully grown, which means that it has begun reproducing, and is therefore harvestable. And, second, whether it is currently snail season or not. i view them in the same way i would view a beetle for instance, or a mayfly, or a cicada. food for something, certainly, but not food for me. our neighbors, on the other hand, think, “hmmm . . . dinner?”

land snails

autignac, france

p.s. a snail’s shell forms a logarithmic spiral. Most snail shells are right-handed or dextral  in coiling, meaning that if the shell is held with the apex (the tip, or the juvenile whorls) pointing towards the observer, the spiral proceeds in a clockwise direction from the apex to the opening.

  • Carol says:

    I’m with you. Just pass the butter and garlic and hold the snail

    reply

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after 27 years of marriage, we still can’t agree on succulents

september 30 was our 27th wedding anniversary. we celebrated it by picking grapes in the morning, and agreeing over lunch to try for another 27, if the universe allows. we see the world mostly from the same point of view, but i can’t lure him over to my side on the beauty of succulents. i wouldn’t call it a crisis, but…

succulent tips (possibly pachyphtum)

autignac, france

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