Seriously slow food

Bring on the free food . . .

Mallorca’s long hot summer is behind us. Autumn has begun with some unsettled weather and storms, and the buckets are poised to catch the rain pouring through the roof into our home; this weekend’s forecast is looking rather grim. Six months after we applied for permission to repair our seriously leaky roof, and nada. Six months! We’re not the only ones seriously fed up with waiting to get the job done. Our local Mallorcan building firm would love to get on with the work and be able to invoice us for what is a substantial job. Might help his cash flow situation in these challenging economic times . . .

Free food anyone?

Anyway, I digress. Wet weather means free food . . . if you like gastropods. Heavy rain is the cue for snails to emerge from wherever they hide themselves when it’s hot and dry, and go for a glide (or whatever that forward motion that snails do is called). And there are hundreds of ’em. When the snails come out, so do the Mallorcans, on the hunt for a free meal. The French aren’t the only ones who love eating them: you’ll find snails on the menu of many restaurants serving traditional Mallorcan cuisine. People even drive out to the valley – presumably from the nearest town – to forage for the pot, abandoning their cars wherever they can to set off on foot with their containers. They’re easy to spot, as they weave slowly along the lanes, heads bent low to spot the gliding gastropods.

Bagsy those

One Sunday, we were out working in the garden and saw two elderly ladies slowly making their way up the lane towards our property. These were clearly accomplished snail-spotters, as they were bobbing up and down as they went (rather good exercise, I thought). As they passed our garden, we greeted them in Spanish and they stopped to exchange a few words. It was then that I noticed one of the women wasn’t carrying a container for her snails: she’d simply placed them all over her arm. Lots of them.

“Would you like a bag for . . . those?” The Boss asked, indicating her ‘passengers’. The lady accepted the offer and was last seen plucking the snails from her arm (I tried not to shudder) and putting them into the provided paper bag before continuing her quest.

Free they may be, but you won’t find me foraging for snails . . .

A Rude Awakening

Who said I can’t hunt here? Photo by Jan Edwards

Yesterday, the sound of two early morning gunshots woke me; I turned over and went back to sleep, wondering how the hunters can possibly see anything when it’s barely light. I’m used to the sound of guns going off these days but, when we first moved here, it was like living in the Wild West. At the first shot, I’d leap out of bed and crawl underneath it until the final shot had been fired. OK, that last bit’s an exaggeration but, when you’re not used to it, the sound of guns firing all around you – and the occasional peppering of lead shot on the roof of your home – can be a tad unnerving. And, in the various hunting seasons, shooting is permitted on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and public holidays.

Run, rabbit, run

Some research I did, a few years ago for a newspaper article I was writing, revealed that there were then around 22,000 people in the Balearics with a gun licence. Not surprising really, as so much of the island is rural. Hunting and foraging are part of rural living for many and, although I don’t personally like hunting, I’m out there with the rest of ’em when it comes to foraging for blackberries or wild asparagus!

Back in our early time here, our valley – with its vast rabbit population – was a magnet for gun-toting Mallorcans: some even came by taxi from the Palma area to give their guns an outing. Most of these congregated at a nearby derelict property, which became known locally as ‘the hunting lodge’. Not all of them seemed to understand the regulations about not shooting close to properties or roads.

Of leadshot and Lycra 

Things have changed in our valley over the past few years: today, there are fewer rabbits around here to shoot (myxomatosis has taken its toll) and ‘the hunting lodge’ has been restored and turned into the country home of a Manacor family – who don’t hunt. The hunters are now more likely to be folks who live in the valley, shooting for the kitchen pot rather than for pleasure.

Whether it’s the reduced chance of bagging a bunny, or the higher cost of fuel to get here, there is definitely less shooting here now. Of course, it could be due to the increased interest in our valley shown by Seprona (the Nature Protection Service of the Guardia Civil, which polices rural matters, including hunting), after – so the story goes – a German cyclist reported a ‘leadshot meets Lycra’ experience while on a bike ride through the valley . . .

Jan Edwards ©2012