by Fiona Ruddy
Perhaps no two sectors are more spiritually at odds than global technology and small-scale farming. But this didn’t deter Andreas Gugumuck, an Austrian who left a high-paying IBM job to revive the forgotten snail farming tradition of Vienna.
Even though friends and colleagues thought he was a little verrückt—“crazy” in German—their opinions were no match for Andreas’s single-minded focus: to bring this long lost regional agricultural tradition back to life.
While digging into the archives of his country’s culinary traditions, Andreas discovered that Vienna was once the snail capital of Europe. But after World War I, the taste for snails—and the production of them—was extinguished. It wouldn’t be until the 1960s that escargot came back into fashion in Austria, but as one of Vienna’s Michelin-starred chef’s admits, even he was sourcing them canned until Andreas came along.
While Andreas’s enterprise—lovingly shot in this short video—may be part homage to the past, it also represents a radical vision of a more sustainable future: Snails convert plants into protein much more efficiently than livestock, affirming recent calls to eat more alternative proteins to reduce our ecological footprint.
A snail is the emblem of the international Slow Food movement, and director Kevin Longa’s film Verrückt: The Snail Farmer of Vienna is an apt reminder that even the tiniest (and slimiest) creatures can lead big changes in our food system.
This piece is part of a series in partnership with Food & Wine Magazine.