Help me impress my friend by figuring out what book we're remembering
March 17, 2014 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I was at lunch with a friend of mine and the conversation turned to escargot. She said, "I remember reading a book when I was a kid where the girl went out to a fancy restaurant, and she accidentally ordered escargot because she didn't know what they were."

I remembered that book, too, and it was the only scene I remembered. I think I must have learned what escargot was while reading it, but nothing else stuck out. We couldn't come up with another detail, not even one. The only thing I might add is that I think the girl was poor, at least poorer than the people who had invited her to dinner, because there was a general sense of being intimidated by the restaurant. It was probably a pretty famous book, since we both read it? And we're ~30, so it was published in the 1990s, if not earlier.

After we had this conversation, my friend said, "Oh well, I guess we'll never know."

"No," I said mysteriously. "Don't worry. I will figure it out."

Help me!
posted by pretentious illiterate to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There's an episode of I Love Lucy where she orders escargot not knowing what they are.
posted by yoink at 12:08 PM on March 17, 2014

I have definitely read this! Beverly Cleary perhaps?
posted by emd3737 at 12:10 PM on March 17, 2014

I think it was from the Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary.
posted by Giggilituffin at 12:11 PM on March 17, 2014

I thought of Baby Sitter's Club -- I had this, and it was Claudia who goes and orders escargot.
posted by Dimes at 12:12 PM on March 17, 2014 [11 favorites]

This sounded very familiar to me, and the scene with Claudia is definitely the one that I remember!
posted by heyforfour at 12:15 PM on March 17, 2014

I also thought immediately of Claudia.
posted by jeudi at 12:15 PM on March 17, 2014

I can't remember the book, but the exact same situation as you've described but with horsemeat instead of escargot.

Book was a standard teen-love story which my sisters had and I read as well. Fits the timeframe ; may have been set in Canada?

This is going to bug me now.
posted by sektah at 12:20 PM on March 17, 2014

I remember a scene like this, too, but I don't think it was BSC. I seem to remember that it was from a book about a girl whose father played in an orchestra and her mother was a bank teller, and she usually ordered shrimp cocktail as her entree when they went out to restaurants. I think the scene in question was with her wealthier friend's parents. Is that ringing a bell at all?

I think maybe she also wanted to "sponsor" a third-world child but her family couldn't afford to, though I might be mixing up my late-80s YA novels.
posted by lunasol at 12:21 PM on March 17, 2014

OK! I have definitely read the California Dreams Babysitter's Club special (I remember Mallory getting a blonde makeover) but I'm not 100% sure that's what I'm thinking of, so I've emailed my friend to check. I have a vague sense that maybe the girl was a little younger, and I thought she was with a family, not on a date? But it definitely could be it.

I wonder if the people who remember Ramona are thinking of the time she and Beezus had to eat tongue? That's a very similar scene in my memory.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:22 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

isn't there another BSC book where (Claudia again?) described an incident at Chez Whatever, in which she enjoyed "anguille?" I think I remember her calling it "buttery and garlicky." and then her friends were all THAT WAS EEL BETCH
posted by changeling at 12:23 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lunasol, that does ring a bell with what I'm remembering. Especially the part about the wealthier friend's parents. I'm almost certain that was the setup here.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:23 PM on March 17, 2014

OKAY. lunasol's comment about sponsoring a kid sent me into a weird memory frenzy -- and finally I remembered Nancy K. Robinson's Oh Honestly, Angela!
was the escargot scene part of that??
posted by changeling at 12:38 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh Honestly, Angela was the book I was going to say - it's not escargot, though, it was eels, I am pretty sure. But, everything else fits - she and her brother were invited out to dinner by her friend's parents, and she wanted to be fancy but not seem naive, so she ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, which was eels (anguille on the menu). And then pretended she always ordered it and knew just what it was.
posted by umwhat at 12:41 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

All I can add to this conversation is that I wonder about this book every single time I think of escargot, so I hope you figure out what it is. I'm watching with interest.

I don't think it's Oh Honestly, Angela, because that doesn't sound familiar to me at all. The rest of lunasol's comment rang a bunch of bells for me, though.
posted by sockermom at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2014

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I cannot tell if it was "Oh Honestly, Angela." I don't recognize the cover, and the stuff about the little girl giving away her elephant maybe sounds familiar, but maybe not? The general aura of economic struggle and lesson-learning seems right (it's closer than BSC) but unless someone can find an escargot scene and maybe quote it, I'm going to hold off from saying that's definitely it...
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:46 PM on March 17, 2014

Oh man, umwhat, I just saw your answer, and that really confuses things. Because I'm pretty sure my friend said that she remembered the girl ordering the cheapest thing on the menu. But if it's anguille, then why would we both think of it whenever we ordered escargot???
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:49 PM on March 17, 2014

I have that book. Pics taken with camera phone. Sorry two of them are sideways.
posted by luckynerd at 1:03 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm thinking that it's certainly possible that I read both Oh Honestly, Angela and the BSC books - perhaps around the same time? - and I conflated them in my memory, because the "accidentally ordered weird slimy creature with a French name" thing is such a strange detail that reading it in two places probably made my brain twist a bit when recording the memory. It seems strange that we would both do that, but here we are.
posted by sockermom at 1:05 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, that is absolutely it. Unbelievable! I've been falsely judging poor escargot all this time. Round of applause for everyone!!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:08 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, that's been one of those book-memories that's tickled at the back of my brain for years, but never enough for an AskMe. Leave it to metafilter to have the answer in under an hour.
posted by lunasol at 1:17 PM on March 17, 2014

Books aside, the escargot thing definitely happened in an episode of "Little House on the Prairie." 1978 episode called "The Rivals"--Charles Ingalls and Jonathan Garvey were having a fancy dinner in a restaurant to celebrate beating some other guys out of a big hauling contract. They ordered escargots at the snooty waiter's suggestion but were appalled when they arrived and Jonathan blurted "Them's snails!" (And then they decided that living the high life was not for them and turned down the contract because they'd be away from their families for too long.)

I know you and your friend are younger than I am but maybe you saw it in syndication and it joined in with the books?

This is my SECOND LHOTP reference today. Vaguely embarrassing, but I so loved it as a child.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:18 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Books aside, the escargot thing definitely happened in an episode of "Little House on the Prairie."

Isn't there also a Paddington Bear story where he serves escargot and everyone loves them until they discover what they are (I don't think Paddington knows himself--not sure how that works)? I suspect it's enough of a trope (adding the "I Love Lucy" and the LHOTP eps together) that any "ordered X in restaurant and was shocked to discover X was actually [well known icky thing]" story will tend to become an "escargot" story in memory.
posted by yoink at 1:23 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Found the book at a used bookstore a few years ago. I'd love to find the book that came before it, "Mom You're Fired", as I used to have it and read it so much I gave it up for Lent one year. :)
posted by luckynerd at 1:23 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd love to find the book that came before it, "Mom You're Fired",

Seems to be available on
posted by yoink at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2014


I remember Mom, You're Fired! I also had the third book, Angela and the Broken Heart. Nathaniel wore a T-shirt that read "Up against the wall, litterbugs!" on his first day of high school but it wasn't ironic enough.
posted by changeling at 1:50 PM on March 17, 2014

There's.... more of them....??!?!?!

Sweet. :)
posted by luckynerd at 2:56 PM on March 17, 2014

Final confirmation from my friend: She was also remembering Oh Honestly, Angela. So, to reiterate one last time, you all managed to remember the book I was talking about, even though I only remembered one entirely un-google-able detail...and that detail was wrong.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 3:51 PM on March 17, 2014 [8 favorites]

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