Who’d of thought? I hadn’t. I was amazed to come across in my news gathering for the next issue of the Magyar Szó to learn that Hungary produces some 2000 tonnes of snails each year for export. Apparently the annual quota of snails were collected in Hungary this year, despite the drought in April. Buyers paid Ft 80-110/kg at the 1,500 collection points, Ft 5-10 more than last year. “Snails are in fashion,” said István Pacs, head of the garden snail product council. However, domestic demand for snails is negligible. Half of the harvest is exported (“live shipments”) to processing factories in the Balkans and Turkey. Hungary has a processing facility in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county and another in Zala county. All this, according to the Budapest Business Journal.
Now, speaking of snails, what about the famed Hungarian pastry delight, kakaós csiga? These are snail (csiga) shaped pastries with coca (kakaós) flavoring and are widely available in bakeries and pastry shops throughout Hungary. We loved them. Even now, the mere mention of kakaós csiga can induce Homer Simpson-like gurgling of delight amongst the male members of the family. Unfortunately these are not exported – well, at least not to New Zealand.
Csiga has another dimension to me. Once upon a time, in another time, there was an older Hungarian immigrant to New Zealand. He was a member of very distinguished and prominent Hungarian family, and his habits and bearing portrayed his fine military heritage. But to the family he was simply facsiga or literally, “wooden [fa] snail [csiga]”. In this context it actually means “spinning top” but like so much in the Hungarian language, it doesn’t translate quite so well into another language such as English. Our facsiga was much loved, in the way you love a stern, upright, but good-hearted gentleman. When he passed away, he was as far from his homeland as you can get. History meant he could not obey the injunction of the mighty poem, Appeal (Szózat), the last line of which says, “Here [Hungary] you must live and die!”/”Itt élned, halnod kell”. He lives on our memories though, which is the best we can do for him.
Snails and Hungary, who’d of thought?