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If you love eating escargot, you might want to stop reading right now. I recently watched the movie Deep Water. The main character, Vic (played by Ben Affleck) had a hobby of snail farming (technically known as heliciculture) in his garage (or back yard or basement, wherever it was).
At one point in the movie, a guest is taken to see the snail farm. Later, the same guest suggests bringing in a few snails to add to the dinner about to be eaten. Vic replies that snails are poisonous to eat unless they have first been starved to purge them of toxic material.
I did what any sane person would do at this point. I paused the movie to go search whether the “starvation first” concept was true about snails.
Yes, it is. Apparently, the starvation for seven to ten days is necessary to remove dirt, fecal matter, and any toxic plants from the digestive tract of snails. Otherwise, humans who eat un-starved snails are at risk of becoming sick. The starvation is followed by a saltwater and vinegar bath for the snails to complete the purge of all the bad stuff.
How about the first snail ever eaten? Who was the John Doe who came across a snail one day and thought, “I’ll eat this.” How hungry was Doe? Then, after eating the snail, Doe must have become ill.
Apparently, Doe’s next thought (after recovering from almost dying) was, “Well, I’ll just starve the snail, then rinse it in saltwater and vinegar, then cook it and eat it. I’ll be fine. Besides, if I cover that snail in garlic butter, the taste will be delicious.”
Even if a snail is a delivery system for tasty garlic butter, my answer is still, “Escar—No!”
I have never eaten escargot in my life, and butter (a dairy product) is off the “they cooked it for me” list now that I live in a vegan household. Still, I always have questions about how certain foods came to be eaten. Who looked at a cow, a sea animal, a chicken, or a pig and thought to kill and eat it? And the flexitarian in me says, “And why is it sometimes delicious?” In fact, these products are so delicious that the market is flooded with vegan and vegetarian products to mimic the carnivorous ones.
Unlike snails, I have eaten plenty of cashews in my life. Did you know that cashews still in their shell could be poisonous? The shells contain urushiol, a toxin, which could leak into the cashew part we eat.
So, one day, Jane Roe (I’m an equal opportunity user of imaginary names) saw a shelled cashew hanging off a tree and thought, “I’ll eat this.” She then gets itchy or sick or both. Roe then decides that a cashew will be okay if roasted. Sure, that’s how it happened.
Cashews must be removed from the shell, then roasted to remove any possible toxins. When you see a label of “raw cashews” in what you may buy from a store, the “raw” does not refer to being taken straight out of the shell with no roasting. The “raw” only refers to the fact that no salt or flavor has been added to the cashew.
No “ew” for cashews, though. Cashews are chosen first by me out of any nut mix at my house. And have you ever had cashew butter, a staple for vegans? Delicious!
Now, here’s another delicious food that got accused of being toxic: The tomato. In the case of the tomato, the accusation was false. This bad reputation for the tomato came from the fact that aristocrats often died after having eaten tomatoes, causing the nickname for the fruit to be “poison apple” (not to be confused with the poisonous apple that knocked out Snow White).
The aristocrats died, however, not from the tomato but from the pewter plates used to serve them. The pewter plates had an incredibly high lead content, and the high acidity of tomatoes caused the tomato to absorb some of that lead, causing tomato eaters to often become ill.
On September 26, 1820, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson [a real, not imaginary, Doe or Roe person] of New Jersey had brought tomatoes from abroad. Standing on the steps of the Salem courthouse before a group of more than 2,000 people, he prepared to eat a basket of tomatoes.
The crowd had gathered to watch what they perceived would be a public suicide. A band that was present played a dirge.
Johnson ate the tomatoes and did not die, much to the amazement of the gathered crowd. Today, tomatoes are used in cuisines all over the world.
My maternal grandfather owned a tomato plant that provided tomatoes to all the grocery stores in the area. He shared generously with our family, so we never had a lack of tomatoes in the house.
Even more delicious to me than tomatoes are potatoes. I’m addicted to potatoes cooked in any way whatsoever. Surprisingly, both tomatoes and potatoes contain nicotine, as do sweet peppers, tea, and cauliflower. Just ask science: tinyurl.com/bddzhvbp.
The levels of nicotine in these foods are so low, however, that harm to human beings from ingesting these foods is deemed extremely unlikely. Could the nicotine be why I’m so addicted to potatoes? That is also not likely, but I do love a good potato!
Loving almost all vegetables and some fruits makes for an easy transition to a vegan diet. I do not have the genetic make-up to like kale, as I find it to have a bitter, dirty taste. But count me in for any other vegetable! Please let me know in the comments about any of your favorite foods or food addictions.
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