On a blazing hot weekend in early July, residents of the small town of Toulouges in the south of France gathered for the Festival de l’Escargot. France is known for its love of snails, and in recent decades, more festivals have been popping up for people to gather and enjoy the delicacy. While the Festival de l’Escargot began only three years ago, another escargot celebration, Fête de l’Escargot, is hosting its 31st annual event this August in Digoin, France.
“[Toulouges is] very small and has a tight community,” said photographer Skyler Dahan, who attended this year’s festival for BuzzFeed News. “The closest city is Perpignan, which shares its love for Catalonian culture and history.” This Catalan crossover is highlighted at Festival de l’Escargot through replicas of traditional 19th-century garments that some festivalgoers wear and gigantic historical puppets that revelers parade around the event.
According to Dahan, the escargot served at this particular festival are farm-raised for safety reasons, but it’s important to note that not all escargot consumed by humans are farmed. “If they are found in the wild, they are [sometimes] poisonous due to the toxins they ingest from the plants they eat,” Dahan said.
The escargot served at Festival de l’Escargot are called “cargols a la llauna” and originate from the ancient Catalan city of Lleida; they are found all over Catalonia and the French region around Toulouges. Before they are cooked, the escargots are starved for four to six days in order to dry them out. The snails are then covered in salt to make the escargots emit a drool-type substance and release a liquid. The snails are then filleted with a small knife to release them from their shells. Finally, they are dipped in a salt-and-pepper mixture and left to settle for a couple of hours, laid out over charcoal in the sun, and then grilled and served — in this case, with Catalan wine, paella, bread, and a salad. Bon appétit!