Try the Whelk (Even If You Don’t Know What It Is)

dinner servers choose for me. I figure they know more than I do, not only because they’ve likely tasted it, but they know what sells. Also, given that I eat out on a very regular basis, I feel like I should make it count–and that means trying something I know I won’t be making at home anytime soon. Like whelk.

Here's what whelks look like. Photograph: Wikipedia. Of course.

Three arrived on a plate, beautiful coiled shells on a bed of ice with a narrow fork to draw out the flesh, which I found surprisingly plentiful and dense. Dipped into a savory herb butter, it was sweet and buttery and, well, something worth risking the gross-out factor of snails to try.

Granted, not every meal is an experience, certainly not a $2-a-bite, New-York-Times-reviewed culinary climax. But if, somewhere in there between the routine salad or usual dinner, you can layer in a little surprise for yourself, whether you order it on a whim or make it yourself, you make one of the great pleasures of the day–eating–something aside from stuffing your gullet. That, and allow yourself a little anticipation, which can only exist when you aren’t sure what’s coming, but you’re pretty sure it’s something good.