How Escargots (French snail dish) made its way into French cuisine is a tale of sheer luck, and it presents an important lesson to all those who underestimate the role of chance while overestimating their own capabilities. Some things are just beyond our control.
It took place in France during the 17th century. More specifically, on the fortieth birthday of one of the world’s most legendary characters: Louis XIV, known popularly as Le Roi Soleil or the Sun King.
Story has it that for this very joyous occasion an unusually lavish feast was called for. Exotic dishes from around the world would help mark the affair.
“You will produce a banquet of epic proportions to honour the celebrations,” said the court minister to Versailles’ Head Chef, Pascale Penseldec. “Consider yourself tasked with preparing His Majesty the most sumptuous meal he has ever eaten. Or else … you may just find yourself out of a job.”
A growing bead of sweat ran down Penseldec’s forehead.
Stressed from the unenviable task of having to surmount the expectations of a king who was accustomed to the very best, at all times, Penseldec immediately put on his thinking cap and began outlining what would make up the evening’s menu. He sent out helpers to collect the very best ingredients from all corners of the known world.
Little did he know, that a dark force was working against him. His sous-chef, Jean-Pierre, a jealous man who had lived in Penseldec’s shadow for years, in an attempt to sabotage his superior, emptied a bucket-full of snails into a pot of food Pascale had prepared.
Dinner is served
The moment the plate was placed in front King Louis, all eyes turned toward Penseldec and then back at the King. Next, the round metal dish cover was lifted. That was when the entire dining room went quiet. Five hundred men and women, comprising nobles, diplomats, and all variety of VIPs, waited, open-mouthed and with baited breath to hear what the King would say next.
The King reproachfully looked at Pascale, who was left speechless from shock at the sight of snails on the King’s plate. An affront of this nature was never witnessed before, by anyone present.
Penseldec no longer worried about keeping his job. At this point, he was preoccupied with the thought of having to face the guillotine the following day.
According to some historical accounts, Penseldec even wet his pants.
“This is an insult,” cried the court minister. “Slay him.”
But the King raised his hand, signalling everyone stay quiet. He looked to his left. Then to his right. Then quietly proceeded to eat one of the snails. After chewing through one of them, he sat motionless for a few minutes. You could hear an ant walk across the floor it was so quiet.
Then, without warning, the King stood up and said: “This is the best fucking meal I’ve ever had. I am giving the royal order to make Pascale a knight, with immediate effect.”
And that’s how escargots found its way into French cuisine 🙂 Not quite, but, the point is, you never know what destiny has in store my friends. Even when obstacles present themselves, if it is meant to be then it is meant to be.