The Topanga Snail Convention

Snails in the garden.

I moved to Topanga in 1978. At that time, I had a king-size heated waterbed. Remember those days?

Topanga was beautiful space–land, community, music–what more could an urban Indian want?

I had big dogs, in particular, a big German shepherd who was a bit of a scaredy-cat and liked to sleep on the bed. One dark and stormy night, my kids were gone with their dad, and I was alone with a shepherd who was afraid of thunder and lightning. He jumped onto the bed and caught his toenail on a corner of the big bag of water.

A geyser erupted in the bed, spewing water all over the room, soaking the carpet causing the Great Bedroom Flood. I tried stuffing bedding into the gash, tried towels, clothing, getting the dogs off the bed but realized none of that was going to work.

I would have to go outside, get the hose, go around to the bedroom window, shove the hose into the room, go back around to the bedroom, stuff the hose into the water bed, go back around and start a siphon.

As I ran barefoot out into the yard, I ran right into the biggest snail convention ever seen in Topanga! Oh my! Squish, slide, slime between the toes, skidding in the mud, and the carnage! Get the hose, slime to the window, skid back into the house. Out again, through the masses, and then lie down on my belly, sliming my front to suck on the hose to start the siphon.  

Have you ever siphoned gas? I hate sucking on hoses…. But the water started flowing out (spit, spit) and I returned through the slimey throng to my room. I spent the rest of the night mopping up my bedroom.

In the morning, being a respectful Indian, I went out to pay respects to the devastated snails. I took my tobacco as an offering and prayer. I sang and sprinkled tobacco on the snails.  

Do you know what happens when tobacco hits the slime of a dead/dying snail? Shrivel, quivle, sizzle! It was shocking! Insult to injury!

To this day I have not had a single snail in my yard. I think they use their antennae to communicate a warning. We have an unwritten agreement. Indian territory.

Fingers crossed they didn’t hear this story

Escargots À La Bourguignonne (Snails In Garlic–Herb Butter)

Use good-quality canned snails and store-bought snail shells to make this timeless garlic-and-herb-flavored dish. Landon Nordeman


16 Tbs. Unsalted butter, softened

14 Cup minced flat-leaf parsley

1 Tbs. White wine

1 tsp. Cognac or French brandy

3 Cloves garlic, minced

1 Shallot, minced

Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and nutmeg, to taste

24 Extra-large snail shells

24 Canned extra-large snails

Rock salt

Country bread for serving


Preheat oven to 400°. In a bowl, whisk together butter, parsley, wine, cognac, garlic, and shallots with a fork. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld. Spoon about 12 tsp. of butter mixture into each snail shell. Push a snail into each shell; fill shells with remaining butter mixture. Cover bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with a layer of rock salt. Arrange snail shells butter side up on bed of salt and bake until butter sizzles, 10–12 minutes. Serve snails on a platter with bread to soak up the butter.


No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.