The True Test of a Snail
We were told on one of our Paris walking tours that the true test of a snail is how easily it comes out of the shell with a utensil. The guide mentioned some restaurants procure a specific type of shell that indicates high-quality escargot, but when it comes down to it they insert some cheap snails into the expensive-looking shells. When the consumer of said snail attempts to extract snail from shell, it easily pops out. And then you know you have a fake!
Well, my first snail ever went through a much more rigorous test, and I’m happy to report that it was very real. The picture below tells a small part of the story of what happened.
The items of evidence in the picture above are, from left to right, the ‘stabber’*, the fourche (fork), and the ‘squeezer’*. Between the fork and the squeezer you have part of the ‘snail trail of destruction’. (I believe the offending snail is on the far left but at this angle it’s difficult to pick out of the snail lineup.)
*possibly not technical terms
The scene: Terra, much more culinar-ily adventurous than I, decided that we should order escargot in our outdoor table at a great venue in the Latin Quarter.
The snails came, and our first question to the waiter was “How the heck do you eat these?”. He gave us a quick little demonstration and assured us that it was easy.
Details of what happened next are a little fuzzy, but the basic picture is 1) Nate grabs the squeezer in the one hand and the stabber in the other, 2) Nate goes after the largest snail with the squeezer (because he always goes after the biggest share of food), 3a) the squeezer can’t really handle the large snail, so each side goes a bit askew, 3b) meanwhile Nate reacts to this difficulty by pressing harder, 4) the squeezer can no longer hold the shell, and the torque sends the snail into motion at T = F*r*sin(theta) speeds, 5) all of the yummy juices and sauces, and especially pesto, flies everywhere in a rotating scatter-shot, 6) hitting a) the lady that just happened to be walking behind this spectacle on the sidewalk, b) every single piece of Nate’s clothes, c) the sidewalk (and possibly into the street), and the table cloth (see above).
The best part of the story – the snail stayed snuggled well inside the shell. I picked it up, and by this time that waiter was running at me, laughing, saying “It is so simple!” He then (still laughing) proceeded to extract the snail on my behalf and I ate it (it was actually quite good).
That, my friends, is the true test of a snail.
Measuring Heat in ‘Nate-Sweats’
You’ve heard of night sweats; well, now I want to introduce you to the concept of ‘Nate-sweats’. Any one of you who knows me well knows that I sweat in just about any scenario, so it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘how much’. ‘Nate-sweats’ register on a 1,000 point scale because a perfect score equates to around 1,000 beads of sweat per minute (it’s weird how that conveniently worked out). Anything higher than 1,000 could yield spontaneous combustion. Take a look at where Paris this week landed.
- Average 2 mile walk in 70 degree F weather in Washington – 550/1000
- Jogging 1 mile in 80 degree weather in Washington – 625/1000
- Getting nervous prior to a presentation for work (in the middle of winter) – 675/1000
- California Central Valley during a heat wave – 802/1000
- Hiking the Cable Trail in Issaquah in any weather – 820/1000
- Hawaii at any season – 850/100 (there is also a coefficient that involves distance to beach here – some of these are more complicated)
- Paris this last week – 912/1000 (based on a 24 hour average)
We’ve found ourselves acting very much like our dog Cammy, running from shady spot to shady spot. Let’s just say that anything higher than 90 degrees F in Paris is just unreasonably hot. Fortunately, it’s gotten a little better this week, but it’s very difficult to sleep in this heat!
Our Absolute Favorite Spot in France
So far, the winner of this honor is Fontainebleau. What an experience – we liked it so much that we are already planning two trips back.
The obvious reason to love Fontainebleau is for it’s history. We’re talking eight centuries as a royal residence. We’re talking Napoleon giving up his power prior to exile. And on and on and on.
But if history alone doesn’t separate Fontainebleau from the rest of the pack, a few other factors do in our eyes: 1) the sheer vastness of the grounds, 2) the relative lack of tourists, and 3) the opportunities for play. (3b might be that we were able to basically get there ‘for free’ as our Paris weekly transportation pass gets us there without any extra fees.)
The pictures below don’t adequately capture how large the grounds are. You walk, and walk, and walk – and all of the sudden you realize you are a long way from where you started. You feel quite small on the grounds of Fontainebleau; this feeling of smallness was accentuated for us because there was almost no one there! How are all of these ground maintained? I have no idea.
Then there’s the Forest of Fontainebleau, which extends over roughly 110 square miles – no big deal. You can rent a bike and travel over to an old artists’ colony named Barbizon for lunch (which in fact we are doing tomorrow). You can wander around the castle itself or have a drink overlooking the lake behind it. You can go bouldering in what’s known as one of the best places in the world for this sport (thanks Cale for the tip!). You can have a picnic with no one around you for miles – all of this 45 minutes from Paris! What an absolute gem of a place!
Below I have a few other pictures of some of our adventures. Until next time!