Celebrated Leap Frogs
One winter’s night in the mid 70's my parents and I took the journey along a narrow, twisting road overlooking the Delaware River to the Mountainside Inn—so named for the prehistoric, shale escarpment it is nestled into. Jumbo icicles hung majestically, glazing the dark rock, and enveloping the place in an air of enchantment.
It was here that my parents tricked me into eating frogs’ legs. I had ordered shrimp cocktail and a Shirley Temple—my usual order back when I could never finish an entree and would share my parents’ meals. I’m unclear how it escaped my notice that frog’s legs were being ordered other than maybe I was distracted—scanning the menu for dessert options, or maybe they ordered it in French (not that they were versed in that language but they knew how to order a meal in any language—a skill I inherited).
When the frogs’ legs arrived at the table, my parents told me it was chicken. It tasted like chicken— tender and unremarkable in any distinct way. It was swimming in butter and garlic—a typical French preparation, especially popular at the time. Having tasted it and given it the thumbs up, my parents revealed that I had just eaten “cuisses de nymphes aurore”-- Translation: legs of the dawn nymphs, aka frog legs.
Culinary legend has it that In 1908 famed chef George August Escoffier introduced the dish to the Prince of Wales at the Savoy hotel in London. Escoffier prepared them in a white wine court bouillon, steeped in aromatic cream sauce and gold-tinted paprika, and covered in Champagne aspic. Once the Prince declared them “delicious” their popularity skyrocketed and they became a hit in London restaurants.
An archeological dig in England, however, has uncovered evidence of frogs' legs being consumed some 8,000 years ago by the Brits and they've been a delicacy in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand for centuries.
In the US, frogs' Legs can be found everywhere from Nathan's in Coney Island to La Grenoille in NYC. You can also purchase them at Walmart https://www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Value-Frozen-Frog-Legs-2-lbs/546627546 or on Amazon. They are especially popular in the French-influenced Deep South and Gulf states like Rayne, Louisiana whose nickname is "Frog Capital of the World"—so named after Frenchman, Jacques Weil, and his brothers, so impressed with the frogs they sampled there, started an export company supplying the delicacy to famous NYC restaurants like Sardi's (where it is still on the menu)
I won’t be eating frogs’ legs anytime soon, but I will pour myself a glass of Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc and go back and read Mark Twain's terrific short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Why all this talk of frogs when there won’t be a National Frogs’ Legs day again until the next Leap Year in 2024? Well, because while the groundhog may have seen his shadow this year, the surest sign of spring arriving is when we hear frogs singing, emerging once the rains have melted all the snow. This weekend’s forecast calls for plenty of rain to melt away the residue of our February snow pile, and hopefully, usher in the sound of the frogs singing. . .