Man furious after his wife cuts snails too small

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

Marriage is hard. It's no wonder so many marital unions end in divorce. Recent divorce statistics show that "Almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation."

"According to various studies, the [...] most common causes of divorce are conflict, arguing, irretrievable breakdown in the relationship, lack of commitment, infidelity, and lack of physical intimacy. The least common reasons are lack of shared interests and incompatibility between partners."

Among those common causes of divorce, nothing is mentioned about food preparation. Yet it was an argument about food preparation that came closest to ending my parents' decades-long marriage. Of course, they hadn't been married decades yet. Their fight over snail salad took place when they were still newlyweds.

My mother had never heard of snail salad before the day my father announced he wanted her to prepare it for him. He bought a sack of conchs and instructed my mother to make snail salad. Strictly speaking, it would have been both snail salad and conch salad since a conch is a type of snail.

According to Britannica, a conch, is a "marine snail, of the subclass Prosobranchia (class Gastropoda), in which the outer whorl of the shell is broadly triangular in outline and has a wide lip, often jutting toward the apex. Conch meat is harvested and consumed by people in Caribbean countries."

Although conch meat may be known for its consumption by people in Caribbean countries, my father had developed a taste for them after moving from the Azores to the United States. When my father told my mother to cook snail salad, my mother looked at him quizzically.

"What?" my father asked. "Don't you know how to make snail salad?"

My mother replied that she had never even heard of such a thing. She certainly didn't know how to prepare it. Since it was well before the days of the Internet, and my mother didn't own a cookbook, she didn't know where to begin.

According to my mother, my father told her how to prepare the conch "more or less."

"He told me how to cook the conch, how to cut it, and what type of seasonings to add," she said. "I felt so confused. If this happened today, I could find 1,000 ways to prepare conch salad online. Back then, I had to rely on his advice. I don't think he had ever made it before either."

Before my father left for work the following day, my mother asked him one last question about the snails. "How small should I slice the snails?" she asked.

He told her to cut them "tiny and thin" because conchs are "too chewy."

My mother got busy preparing the snail salad, chopping the conch meat into oblivion so it wouldn't be too chewy for her fussy husband.

"Every time I cut the snails, I would ask myself if the pieces were small enough, and I would cut even the smallest bits in half again. It took a long time. I had a fear of failure because I wanted to please a man whom I knew in my heart wouldn't be pleased no matter how hard I worked at chopping up those snails."

He came home from work, sat down at the head of the table, and took one bite of the snail salad my mother had prepared for him before spitting it out. Then he sailed the plate of snail salad across the kitchen like it was a Frisbee.

"These snails are cut too small," he complained as the snail salad slithered down the wall.

According to my mother, she learned how to make snail salad "to perfection" after that incident. Also, she hasn't made it in decades, and I can't say I blame her.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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