Saturday, 26 January 2013

Lead On, Small Mollusc!

Do you remember Brian the Snail in the Magic Roundabout, constantly urged by Dougal the Dog to share in his crazy schemes?


Today is definitely my day for thinking about molluscs –this evening we are eating Moules et Frites, which will keep my Belgian Boy very happy.


I had already decided that I needed to eat more fish – and preferably sustainable fish. Yesterday night I took advantage of a special offer in Sainsbury's to Switch the Fish and collected a free bag of mussels.

This afternoon I have been working hard on tomorrow’s sermon – I was asked to preach from Acts 16, and have chosen the section about Lydia, the ‘seller of purple’. My background research has left me fascinated by ‘Tyrian purple’ – the cloth chosen by emperors for their robes. It was dyed using a stinking secretion from a sea snail [How I love alliteration] called the murex

pompeii purple

The great thing about this dye was that as the fabric aged, the colour became more intense [as opposed to the fading dyes we are more used to] and it was highly prized throughout the Roman Empire. It was first used around 1600BC – and continued to be popular till the time of the 4th Crusade around 1200AD. But then it fell out of favour for various reasons, and the secret of turning the slime into dye was lost in the sack of Constantinople in 1453

tyrian purple john edmonds

It was only in 2003 that a retired English chemist called John Edmonds rediscovered how to create the dye.

Getting Murex Snails from Crete was expensive, so John says he did his experiments with cheaper cockles from his local Tesco supermarket!

The frites will be oven baked, and I am not planning on experimenting with my mussels- so I think I can safely say that I am neither Frying Tonight, nor yet Dyeing Tonight!


  1. Oooh, you're going to love the article on 'colours' in the Simple Things magazine... :-)

  2. Well, I never knew why it was so popular - getting darker with age! Thanks again for the tip. I think I saw your mural this summer, at the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii. If not, one very like!

    1. Oh well spotted Floss- it is indeed the Pompeii Mural!

  3. How interesting! Must have taken quite a few snails for dyeing. :-) Enjoy your dinner!

  4. Mmmmmm, one of my favourite meals - about time we did it again, don't you think Mags?

    How amazing that it gets darker with age - your blog is an education.


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