Snail ranching for fun and profit

Escargot with pesto

Even if you love eating snails, it is possible that you have never given much thought to the way they live…

But it’s hard to imagine what it actually means to care for snails unless you visit Mary Stewart, who lives in a mobile home in the agricultural area north of Bakersfield, Calif. To raise delicious snails, you apparently have to know what makes them tick, and Ms. Stewart, who turned 64 a few weeks ago, has spent a couple of decades educating herself.

She has learned that snails can move a lot faster than their reputation would suggest, especially when they pick up the lure of food. Spray them with mist, give them some crisp lettuce and “here they come, just like cows at feeding time,” she said. “You can hear them munching and crunching just like cattle. I’m serious. They’re fascinating. And they’re so strong.”

Strong? “These puppies can really push,” she said. Don’t expect to contain them in, say, a box with a screen set on top. “If enough of them get up in the corner, they can actually push that screen loose.”

They also lead erotic lives of variety and vigor. “They’re hermaphrodites,” she said. “They have orgies. I’m serious. When they mate, they’re connecting male and female, female and male.”

It may often look as if snails aren’t doing anything. Ms. Stewart has learned that they are doing quite a bit. “That’s all they’re doing, is making love,” she said.

As part of their ritual of copulation, snails shoot each other with something known as a “love dart.” “Love” is certainly a word you could use to describe how Ms. Stewart feels about her gastropod herd, but after years of caring for and harvesting thousands of snails, she has figured out that there’s nothing romantic about letting one of those love darts pierce your skin…

Nathan Myhrvold, the man behind the “Modernist Cuisine” cookbooks, has cooked with her snails. Harold Dieterle has sporadically served them at Perilla, in the West Village, with hand-cut pasta and guanciale.

At Moto, in Chicago, the chef de cuisine, Richie Farina — using branches that he collects in the nearby woods — places the snails in a row so that they appear to be crawling up the stick in a tangle of (depending on what arrives from the distributor that week) wild mushrooms, edible flowers, a variety of greens and a garlic-herb “moss.” In a less theatrical mode, Brian Leth, the chef at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, pairs the snails with olive-oil-poached baby artichokes on flatbread.

RTFA for lots more about everything from snail sex to preparation for cooking – and anecdotes covering it all.

I love eating snails – though like the Italian side of my family, I prefer scungilli, the seagoing variety.

Free abortions, free contraception for teenagers in France

Meanwhile – back in the US, back in the US, back in the US of A

France is set to reimburse 100 percent of the cost for all abortions, and provide free contraception to girls aged between 15 and 18 under a bill passed by France’s Lower House on Friday.

At present French women can only claim back between 70 and 80% for the operation, which can cost up to 450 euros.

The move to full reimbursement is designed to improve women’s access to abortions, and was included in the 2013 social security budget and a specific campaign promise of President Francois Hollande.

By allowing free contraception, France hopes to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Everywhere free contraception has been introduced, this is exactly what has happened. A bit of education helps, as well.

The much publicised move was welcomed by Martine Hatchuel, president of ANCIC, the French Association which counsels women on contraception and abortion. “It’s about time,” she said previously. “Minors should have access to contraception and it should be free and anonymous. But unfortunately just because a girl reaches 18 doesn’t mean she is out of the woods, and we would like to see this extended to women aged 25.”

Keep on rocking in the Free World. We’ll catch up to France on healthcare, some day.

Favorite new photos: Rendezvous

Demonstrators stand outside a branch of Starbucks near St Paul’s Cathedral before the start of an anti-austerity protest march.

You may as well rendezvous for your favorite morning beverage before confronting the corrupt bastards in charge of your country. If you know anything about Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of STARBUCKS, he might be behind one of those masks marching along in anonymity.

Deadly drug compounder ignored contamination warnings

The company at the center of a deadly meningitis outbreak was warned by its own environmental monitors of bacterial contamination of its facility months before the first cases were reported…

Mold, and in some cases, an overgrowth of bacteria was detected in different areas of the New England Compounding Center’s two “clean rooms” nearly 90 times since January, a Food and Drug Administration report said…

Despite the warnings from its own monitors…the compounding center did not investigate the reports of the contamination nor is there documented evidence it worked to decontaminate the affected areas.

Tainted medications from the compounding center have been blamed for the outbreak of fungal meningitis that has caused 25 deaths and 338 illnesses.

The FDA’s preliminary findings were released following an inspection of the compounding center this month. In addition to documented reports of bacterial contamination, FDA investigators observed “greenish black foreign matter” and “white filamentous material” in vials of methylprednisolone acetate — the steroid linked to the meningitis outbreak…

The FDA report comes the same week that the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy voted to revoke permanently the compounding center’s license to operate in the state as well as the licenses of the company’s three principal pharmacists.

Compounding centers like this get their exemption from federal oversight on the grounds of serving local and regional communities. The standard “states right” exemption from responsibility that conservative politicians roll in – like hogs in their own shite.

Meanwhile, these thugs have been selling their crap all over the United States and no one in the FDA noticed? No one in Congress noticed? We have elected officials who sit on their dead butts all day getting paid to examine so-called security risks of buying cellphone parts from China – but the health security risk from deadly drugs rolled out domestically to cut-price profiteers doesn’t raise an eyebrow in Washington, DC.

The profits of crime breed corruption. Same as it ever was.