So spring has officially arrived here in Córdoba! Almost every day is sunny and the whole city smells like flowers, with everyone spending time outside and the sun setting after 9pm. It’s almost a paradise. Along with the beautiful weather, spring has also ushered in a strange culinary phenomenon here in Andalucía: the eating of snails! Now I’m sure eating snails probably sounds as gross to you guys as to me; hell, I’m pretty sure I used to throw salt on snails in the garden when I was little (I’ve always been a little weird, but hey), and now I am about to go eat them?! What has the world come to?
In many places around the city (and in Spain) you will find large stands selling snails for people to snack on. They advertise selling caracoles (Spanish for snails), and there will be plenty of tables around so you can sit down and take your time and chat with friends and family. After seeing these stands all around the city and hearing from friends that it is a really traditional food of Córdoba, I thought I might as well give it a go; so last Thursday my friends Tanya, Amy, and I plucked up our courage and headed over to one of the more popular stands to eat some snails!
Now there are several types of snails you can get here: caracoles chicos (small snails), caracoles gordos (big fat snails), caracoles en salsa de almendras (snails in an almond sauce), and picantones (spicy snails). Between us we split the chicos, gordos, and picantones. And by split between us, I mean we ate a couple of each before admitting defeat. I gave it my all, and I love weird food, but even I am not a fan of snails. They look absolutely revolting and have a horrifying texture that even the delicious sauce cannot hide. At one point a fly landed in the spicy sauce and we started to freak out before we realized, how can you REALLY complain about a fly landing on our snails?!
They are served in different sauces. The chicos come in a glass filled with a mint water-broth that kind of looks like pond water. The gordos are served in a really tasty sauce of garlic, pepper, wine, and tomato. If anything, it’s good to dip your bread in. The picantones are small white-shelled snails that come in a spicy red sauce, which was also pretty good. There are two ways to eat the snails. You can either be an amateur and pull them out of the shell with a toothpick and then eat them, or go all out like the Spanish and suck them straight out of the shell (there is a big bucket on the table for the shells). Word of warning-be careful not to end the last part of the snail, as you can probably guess why.
Our plan of attack would involve us shoving them in our mouths as fast as possible so we wouldn’t have to look at them and then take a swig of beer to wash it down with. In my opinion, a nice cold beer is crucial to drink while eating snails. The chicos were the easiest to get through eating while the picantones were also decent too, especially with the sauce. However, I would save the gordos for seasoned snail-eaters only. Those things are massive and slightly terrifying. All in all, eating snails outside on a nice spring day is a must-do at least once if you are ever in Córdoba. Just remember to have some flavored drink with you and don’t look at the snail if you can. Eat up and enjoy!