By Rebecca Pou, Archivist
This Saturday, May 24, is Escargot Day. We are going to pass on the escargot and instead recognize the occasion by sharing a few medicinal receipts featuring our favorite gastropod. Fortunately for snails, we do not recommend trying the recipes.
Today, snails are most frequently consumed in upscale restaurants, but snails have historically been part of the medicine cabinet, so to speak. People most often used snails in preparations to treat consumption, but the shelled creatures were also thought to cure earaches, deformations, asthma, bronchitis, coughs, rickets, cold sores, swellings, and warts.1
In 2013, the Center completed a project cataloging our manuscript receipt books; we came across preparations for “snail water” many times as we worked through the books. The three receipts below come from one of these manuscripts, A Collection of Choise Receipts, a late 17th-century English manuscript with exquisite penmanship, perhaps written by a professional scribe. As you can see, “sharpness in [the] blood” and appetite loss, strangely, can be added to the list of ailments snails were alleged to treat.
You can look at additional receipts for snail water (and more) throughout the year by visiting us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in consulting the collections. As a little tease, I left out the receipt for snail water with goose dung and sheep dung.
Happy Escargot Day!
1. Hatfield, Gabrielle. (2004) Snail. In Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine: Old World and New World Traditions. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.