Gastropod

SHOULD you be roving the Welsh border country this weekend, in search of an amusing and educational way for the whole family to pass a few pleasant hours, you might like to take the Gastropod's Bank Holiday Trip Tip and visit the National Snail Farming Centre and Exhibition at Credenhill, five miles from Hereford on the A480. It is the proud boast of the proprietor, Tony Vaughan, that there is 'nowhere else in the world with such a wide range of snail-related activities'.

Admission to Snail World is a mere pounds 1.50 for adults, pounds 1 for children. The tour begins in a 40ft Portakabin that serves as a combined display centre and lecture theatre, where Mr Vaughan explains the rudiments of snail farming, discussing the breeding, nursery and fattening stages of the cycle. He is particularly informative on the peculiar sex life of snails - a subject that continues to perplex this Gastropod - although demonstrations are difficult to arrange since snails prefer to do it with the lights out.

Trippers can visit a working indoor snail farm and see a breeding herd of plump and succulent Helix aspersa, aka l'escargot anglais, the largest domestic garden snail. Armed with an info-pack, you may wander the Snail Trail and see all 90 species of British land snails in their natural habitat. Marvel at the variety and diversity of wild snails and see if you can spot the four types of hairy snail and the tiny one, shiny brown and almost translucent, that smells garlicky]

After all that excitement, relax in the picnic area and sample half a dozen home- grown snails in one of three proprietary sauces for a paltry pounds 1.20. As you relish them, consider that an estimated four billion snails are consumed in Europe every year. Tony Vaughan may seem eccentric, but snail farming is big business. Working with Alan Gardner, who revolutionised the business by developing an ideal feed for snails and a detergent to clean up after them, Tony acts as a consultant and supplies breeding stock to snail farmers in places as remote as Slovenia.

DINOSAUR pizzas are all very well, and there is even something quite charming about a chocolate biscuit shaped like a brontosaurus, but just when you thought it was safe to go back in the supermarket, a new generation of dino junk-food has hit the shelves. Coming soon to a store near you is Bernard 'Bootiful' Matthews's very own Dinosaurs - The Meal: crumb-coated chunks of turkey in the shapes of stegosaurs, diplodocuses and tyrannosaurs. Follow that with what is referred to in the trade magazine the Grocer as 'fruit-flavoured ambient dairy desserts' made by Dairy Crest, with each pot featuring a dinosaur character developed in conjunction with the Natural History Museum. Wash it all down with Jurassic Juice, new from Coca- Cola & Schweppes Beverages.

THE GASTROPOD'S request for suggestions for flavours to complete Albert Clark's range of English ice- creams drew a truly phenomenal response. It should now be clear to Mr Clark that what the Great British Public wants in the way of ice cream is summer and Christmas pudding flavours, and brown bread. More unusual, prize- winning suggestions included Mrs H Roberts's spotted dick ice-cream and the traditional rice pudding and jam ice- cream dreamt up by Alexandra Long, aged nine.

Among the many methods for making Christmas pudding without suet, Albert selected that outlined by Ray Palmer of Cambridge, whose other suggestions included gooseberry and elderflower syllabub and apple charlotte. Mary Stewart of Bristol came up with the best variations of brown bread ice-cream, including toast and marmalade. The winning recipe for summer pudding ice cream was sent by the improbably named W C Pitprop, who also suggested damson and Atholl brose flavours.

W C turns out to be a Californian living in Sheffield who is nostalgic for the ice- creams of the Bay Area and can't understand why there aren't comparable products on this side of the Atlantic, 'particularly as the dairy products here are infinitely better than at home'. Kathi Kuehn is another expatriate American who, before moving to London four years ago, lived in New England, birthplace of the premium ice- cream business.

So close are several of Kathi's suggestions - rhubard and custard swirl, lemon meringue, vanilla with Maltesers - to the ideas Albert is already working on that he wonders if she has extra sensory perception. Impressed with her methodology, he may offer her a job.

The Gastropod congratulates all the winners, each of whom will receive a Magimix Le Glacier ice-cream machine and a copy of Ices: The Definitive Guide, by Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir.

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