October 15, 2009

The Frogslayer

All people are familiar with the concept of food. Most people are familiar with where their food originates. But few people are familiar with all of the things in this world that can be considered food. Especially if you are a child.

When I was a kid, I could have benefited from watching a program like "Bizarre Foods", hosted by that fine fellow Andrew Zimmern. Maybe I would have realized that a good portion of the flora and fauna on the earth is edible. Perhaps then, I wouldn't have been such a picky eater. By the way, I haven't watched Mr. Zimmern's new program, but I guess I should. I think it was a wise move for him to step away from the icky foods thing. I believe he had about run the gamut of gross things to stick in his mouth. He probably saved himself from developing gout in the process, judging by all of the organ meat he consumed.

Anyway, my mother grew up on a farm. Her sister and oldest brother broke ranks and moved to the big city when they became adults, but her youngest brother carried on the fine tradition of farming, even though he did somewhat betray that tradition in later life and morphed into a sundowner (check your dictionary).

Going to my uncle's farm was a treat. For one thing, it meant that we didn't have to go to my grandfather's farm and I didn't have to watch him sit in his chair and spit phlegm onto a pile of newspapers that he had carefully layered nearby (I guess he couldn't afford a spittoon). And I had cousins to play with, plus they had a mule named "Mule" that didn't kick but would bite you with his yellowed blocky teeth if you pissed it off too bad.

One Saturday, we were at my uncle's farm and my cousins and I were looking for something to do. They suggested we go out to the pond and shoot frogs. Now this sounded like an outstanding idea on many levels. I had seen people "gig" frogs, which involved beer, harpoons with barbed tridents on the ends and more beer. Gigging the frogs seemed easy, but removing said frogs from those barbed tridents was definitely gross. Shooting the frogs would remove that unpleasant step, plus we could pretend they were Nazis.

My uncle wouldn't let us use the '22, but they did have a couple of pump Crossman air rifles, which were possibly even more dangerous. If you had good arm strength, you could pump those suckers up to a point where the pellet would leave the barrel at approximately 4,237 miles per hour.

So, off we went to the pond, packing heat. We crawled to the ridge overlooking the water, sniper style. And there before us, sunning themselves on the pond bank in the June heat, were a whole bunch of frogs. We spread out, and using hand signals, began picking them off one by one, so as not to alarm the whole group. It was take-your-breath-away exciting, it was stomach turning sickening ... and it was fun!

When it was over, we walked down and surveyed the carnage. It was then that one of my cousins produced a burlap sack. He said "Okay, let's pick these up and take them back to the house". My first thought was "Huh?" And I told him that I thought we were just going to throw them in the water for the fish to eat. To this he said, "No dumb ass, we're going to have them for dinner".

Okay, this was a new one on me. You can eat frogs? Why would you want to do that? As it turns out, you can eat frogs. But just the legs ... where the meat is. We took the frogs back to the house, where my Aunt Mattie liberated their legs from the rest of them with a cleaver, skinned them and threw them into a pan of hot oil.

They jumped. Some of them jumped out of the pan onto the floor. No shit. At the dinner table, the grown-ups and my cousins tore into them like they were manna from heaven. I wouldn't touch them, and made a solemn oath to myself that day that no manner of amphibian would ever pass my lips. Never.

Years later, on a business trip to Puerto Rico, I unwittingly betrayed this oath at dinner one evening. At the buffet, I selected an item that appeared to be a breaded chicken strip. After taking a bite of it, my island compadres started snickering at me, and one said "You know that's a frog leg, don't you?" And of course, I told them that yes I did know it was a frog leg ... and choked the rest of it down. These same clowns got a big laugh out of me later on in the week when I unknowingly ate an octopus tentacle, complete with the suckers.

God damned barbarians.

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