I love nature. After having lived in Provence for over a year, I would even venture to say that I have become a nature girl. Early morning, my favorite time of day, is now spent taking a long walk in the countryside with my dogs and has become my time for peace, reflection and discovery. It is easy to discover something new during our wanders… a delicate spider's web, a seasonal scent, fresh rain puddled on wet leaves or a new bird not yet seen or heard. Nature is ever-changing and I love to experience it each day with new eyes.
One morning in early summer, we awakened to a sprouting of new blossoms scattered throughout the meadows and amongst the wild grasses. With curious eyes, I inspected the buds, wanting to identify the new blooms. Imagine my surprise when what appeared to be tiny white flowers were instead tiny white shells. Snails… a myriad of them covering the Provençal countryside.
Reminiscent of tiny seashells that wash upon the shore, the snails suddenly appear, blanketing the Provence landscape and coloring it with speckles of creamy white. Known in France as “Les Limacons”, they move at night and when the soil becomes too hot they congregate on anything structurally vertical. Wild fennel is one of their favorites but I often observe them dressing the wild flowers, fences, street signs or merely clinging to a blade of grass. Unbeknownst to me, these little creatures are actually considered a culinary escargot and are an old Provençal fare. Often flavored by the fennel they eat, the snails are traditionally cooked in aromatic water then eaten directly from the shells, a dish known as "Limaçoun à L'Aïgo Sau."
Perhaps landowners may not agree (?) but for someone who has never witnessed them before, I find the snails adorable, a bit whimsical and perhaps even magical in their mysterious flight. One day they simply arrive. For a fleeting summer season the snails remain, decorating the meadows in silence, reminding me of musical notes cast upon a blank sheet. As the summertime fades and the temperatures begin to cool, in what seems the blink of an eye, les limaçons are again suddenly gone... magically disappearing, only to return with the next summer season...