'Cagouille' is the pretty little name given to the snail in Charente-Maritime, where it has become a bit of a regional mascot.
Charente-Maritime is also the biggest snail producer in France (it may be the biggest snail consumer as well; the inhabitants of Saintonge eat so many they have been nicknamed 'cagouillards').
The idea of breeding snails for food (heliculture) first came about in the 20th century, when the first manuals were printed on the subject.
In Charente-Maritime, the garden snail is passionately revered by some, who insist that its aromatic flavour comes from its contact with earth that has been soaked in the blessing properties of Cognac.
The mollusc, which is a hermaphroditic gastropod, was even honoured in 1978 by the creation of a brotherhood that celebrates it on the first weekend of every September, in Saint Sauveur d'Aunis.
This great event provides the opportunity to discover many recipes featuring the snail, for example 'Bouchée d'escargots aux deux sauces à la fondue de poireaux' (snail vol-au-vent with two sauces and leek fondue), 'Croustillant de Petit Gris sauce verte' (crispy garden snails with green sauce), and 'Feuilleté d'escargot au Cognac' (snails and Cognac pastry).
The festival was first held in 1987 and every year it provides the opportunity to take part in the traditions of the Poitou-Charentes region, including snail races and tasting workshops (supervised by the 'Regional Embassy of the Brotherhoods of Local Produce and Flavours in Poitou-Charentes').