Friday, May 28, 2010

Eating Snails


[ This post is 18 months old - I composed it offline and have just found it. Better late than never. You may disagree. ]

As a year ago, we've come on a short break away from Edinburgh, this time to Cumbria. We're staying just outside Kirkoswald in a big old hall that's been converted into modern apartments. It's very posh.
Last night we went to see in the new year with a swanky meal at a nearby Gastropub. The dining room was above the pub, and as we were called up after our complimentary glasses of champagne (two for Helen, none for me, then) it dawned on us that we were the only sober people dining that night by a very long margin. The other diners, all of whom were middle-aged or elderly, and in large family groups, were full of seasonal spirit, and laughing continually at the appearance of the party balloons. As there poppers went off, I flinched repeatedly, like a shell-shocked infantryman.
Still, the food was great. It occurred to me that the term “Gastropub” might be derived, not prom “Gastronomic” as I had thought, but in fact, from “Gastropod”, as the second course was snails. We'd never tried these before, and I'd been anxious for a couple of days that I wouldn't be able to leave a clean plate, but the old rule of vegetarian coooking (“drown it in garlic and it will taste delicious”) applied here. They weren't rubbery or bursty like wine gums as I'd expected, but more like the fatty end of a beef steak or mushrooms in a vol-au-vent. Yum. Helen wimped out and went for a cleansing sorbet instead.
We had planned to see in the new year at the pub, but downstairs was full of noisy locals, and it wouldn't have felt like a continuation of the evening. I tried to turn Helen's car outside, but couldn't, and started to tack the car back the way it had been facing so I could try again further up the lane. Some local lads decided to help me out, telling me where I had room, and moving some obstacles, so I felt obliged to go back to my original plan. My movements seemed to baffle the lads, who started knocking on Helen's passenger window. I became increasingly besieged and roared off (in several senses), cursing my lack of social ease.
Anyway, I had taken Helen out in her car, eaten snails, and managed not to kill anyone, so I felt that was a fair end to the year.
We saw in 2009 quietly at the apartment, marvelling at how awful the TV coverage was. The were some really big fireworks just outside our window, which we applauded like operagoers. Then to bed.