Cuisses de Grenouilles

Cuisses de Grenouilles

Ah, yes.

I almost thought to spare you this tale, but I happened to let slip to Jayne that it existed, and she has been after me to share the details. They’re unpleasant details, I must warn you.

See, you remember the snail test, right? If not, go read my book ten more times right this second! Goodness. What does a girl have to do to get her every word emblazoned onto everyone else’s memory around here? Say “Let them eat cake”?

Well, Jean-Charles has been nurturing plans to one-up himself for some time now, concerning those snails. I’ve made it through quite a few stays at their house without him getting around to it. And this time I thought I had once again managed to duck my Jean-Charles fate.

After all, Jean-Charles was BUSY. And, in fact, thoughts of how busy he was and why make me realize I’m telling this story all backwards. I should be telling you WHY we went to France this Christmas first.

I will have to work my way up to it. Maybe the beginning of this tale will be its grand finale, kind of like Memento.

Meanwhile, I am telling you the story of the end of it, the last day.

The last day was supposed to be my only day in Paris this trip. What this actually turned out to mean in French friends-and-family parlance is that we drove into Paris, spent six hours sitting at a café table, and drove back out.

Trying to keep a toddler distracted while sitting still in a tiny, tight Parisian café for six hours is not as much fun as you might at first imagine.

Speaking of cafés, a very strange thing is happening in France, in connection with all the smoking bans coming into place: people are actually growing conscious about smoking!!!

For the first time in the history of my relationship with France, the people we were with looked at the small child with us and Actually Conscientiously Asked For THE NON-SMOKING SECTION.


wait for it…

Sat down in it and promptly lit up cigarettes, forgetting already the logic behind their request.

I wonder if the waiter, who had done some juggling to find us a spot, fought the urge to kill or it was just me.

But no homicide occurred, and we made our way from the café table to the next table, the last dinner at Jean-Charles & Claudine’s house.

Where–Jean-Charles had prepared:

MORE snails.





Frog legs are an extraordinary thing. France is a country where pretty nearly the only food you can touch with your hands is bread, after all. Remember–the bourgeois are capable of peeling & eating a banana with knife and fork. Very neat, very proper, very elegant. And then they decide to eat FROG LEGS, minute fragile things covered in butter and garlic that you are supposed to pick up with your fingers by the minute butter-soaked hips and suck the flesh off of.


Really, kind of like barbecued ribs. But with that special exception française. And also, with none of those big rolls of paper towels we get at barbecue places here–just a dainty napkin no one else seemed to get very dirty.

I had to use three.

How did I like it?

Well. It is a very, very strange sensation to feel minuscule frog feet in your mouth, let me tell you. Almost as strange as feeling a snail eyespot. Possibly stranger. I kept thinking of that Kermit movie where he was being pursued by villains after his legs.

And…see…NO, it doesn’t taste like chicken. It tastes like it’s own self. The closest cousin I can think of is shrimp; it’s different but a little bit of some similar flavor and texture.

But…I don’t get it. I would take barbecued ribs any day. Or one of my brother’s beef briskets.

Mia, on the other hand, who pretty much will not eat meat except for some tender chicken, LOVED them.

This thrilled and delighted her grandmother Claudine (who doesn’t want to be called grandmother because of the age thing, so her name is Moumoune) to complete bits. It was proof that Mia was not lost to America beyond all repair, that her French side was still alive and kicking.

So….what did YOU eat for Christmas? Anything challenging?

  • “alive and kicking” at the end there, after a post on frog legs, nearly did me in, Laura. I still have vivid memories of dissecting a frog in high school biology. I refused to eat meat on dissection Fridays. My future vegetarianism should have been obvious right then, and I’d still be one if these kids didn’t get me off track. I think I’m going to start feeding them tofu and see if it takes.

    January 15, 2008 at 4:41 pm
  • OK, I’m going to pretend like I did the “alive and kicking” thing on purpose. Some of these eating experiences in France, it’s kind of like jumping into icy water. Hold your nose, close your eyes, and think as little about it as possible.

    Our friends’ little girl (3) likes tofu, so you never know…

    January 15, 2008 at 7:32 pm
  • Oh my. I’ve never actually seen frog’s legs held up like that before. I apologise to Claudine, Mia and Sebastien, but I suspect I would have gagged right there if I saw a plate of frog’s legs and snails.


    January 16, 2008 at 8:11 pm
  • Well, you KNOW we fry our frog legs down here! I find it’s like fishy-tasting chicken. It’s the same taste – although a different texture – as alligator. (Yes, I know this, because I’ve eaten fried alligator too.)

    Nothing strange for Christmas, but the day after we went to a great restaurant for lunch and I had fried oyster soft tacos which were just plain wonderful.

    January 17, 2008 at 5:13 pm
  • Anne-Gaëlle

    I have never seen any french people I know eating frogs and I spent a lot of my energy abroad telling everyone that French people don’t eat it because it’s just a kind of myth for tourists!!!
    so thank you for that Laura, I’ve just lost all credibility on that blog and maybe in the USA by now…:D
    For my part, I didnt try the aligator in Australia…It didnt look edible to me!!
    But the kangaroo…yummy yummmy!lol!
    and dont worry next time you go in a café in France because since the beginning of the year, it’s everywhere a non-smoking area for my great pleasure!!

    January 18, 2008 at 1:20 pm
  • Weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten is conch when I was down in Key West. Can’t say I’d ever eat it again as it was sooooooo chewy. One of those foods that no matter how long you grind it between your teeth, it never feels like it’s ready to swallow. And I’m with Ann — I’d have gagged if presented with a plate of either of those things!

    January 18, 2008 at 5:17 pm
  • I’m so thrilled to find out about the nonsmoking movement in France even though it’s more sentiment than follow through.

    I think of myself as fairly adventurous and I’ll try a lot of things but I really dislike my food to actually still look like the animal it started out as. I wish it had looked less froggy – ugh. I’m feeling queasy just remembering the photo. I did just eat something just as challenging actually. Although I didn’t realize i was eating it until I’d already had a half a plate full and by then it was too late. Hubby and I went to our new French restaurant. I ordered a blackened tuna and he ordered a seafood pasta dish. Since his had sauce and mine was sort of naked (but delicious), I had the brilliant idea that we should split and share. I gobbled up half my share of his order before I realized that tucked in beneath the larger pieces of swordfish were teensy little shrimp and what appeared to be fat little albino spiders. I’m not sure if they were baby squid or baby octopi but either way, I’d been chewing and swallowing happily until I SAW them. Then I offered the couple that were still left to hubby to finish off.

    I do understand Claudine’s delight over Mia eating the froglegs. I take the same pleasure at all signs that my grandchildren are actually MY grandchildren. Although, to be honest, the clearest indication that they take after their grammy is that when you tell them no, stop right there, don’t cross that line, they grin evilly and make sure you watch them take that forbidden next step.

    January 18, 2008 at 5:21 pm
  • Conch. That just so does not sound like something one would want to try to chew.

    And I, too, have encountered weird squiggly things, Laume. It was while I was reviewing restaurants. Sébastien loved them. And Mia has that look, too! 🙂

    January 18, 2008 at 9:51 pm
  • Anne-Gaelle, EVERYone was talking about the imminent ban. “Only a few more days to do this,” they would say, taking a last gasp of smoke-filled freedom, like people about to be locked away for life.

    Okay, actually, a lot of people said they were glad. “Who wants to breathe other people’s smoke over meals?” the would say. Which was kind of funny, since they are the exact same people who have never thought twice about filling MY lungs with THEIR smoke over meals and every other moment for the past eight years now. Your family has never eaten froglegs? They sell them at Carrefour, even! Alligator, I’ve had. But kangaroo….?? Interesting!

    Michelle, I am trying to imagine eating fried oysters a week before my due date, but I think I would not have managed! I hope everything is going well. How very exhausted are you? But she is SO cute!

    January 18, 2008 at 9:56 pm
  • Did Jean-Claude prepare them himself? So I take it that frog legs are not common in the States? Some restaurants and buffets serve them here, but I think they are fried… not glistening with butter and garlic like the one you’re holding in the picture… and they considered it, haute cuisine… and it’s actually very expensive. So go figure.

    Mia calls her grandmother “Moumoune”? Does it have a meaning in France? Parce que moumoune au Québec, ça veut dire peureux (wimp)… so I’m just wondering.

    January 19, 2008 at 11:35 am
  • Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!! My mom (being Belgian) used to prowl the beach in Maryland during the summer and pull the tiny snails off of the water weeds- people thought she was just making a collection of pets… til she cooked them in a garlic and herb sauce and we were pulling them out of their shells with bent needles (actual sewing needles!) and slurping them down! Oh, I do love snails- we served them in the restaurant we used to own and people loved it. I was surprised at the number of folks, and children!!, who would eat them. We did cook up frog legs a few times, and you’re right (all of you) about the taste and texture- we called it “chews like chicken, tastes like shrimp (sort of)” – I would compare it a bit more to crayfish or alligator (yum to those, too!) I will try anything once and am a pretty adventurous eater… but some things, like calves tongue (EWWWW) and conch, are on my list of ickies- the texture is what gets me… and yet I love snails! Oh, well! As a collector of frogs (as pets and figurines), I do sometimes find myself thinking of Kermit or the Budweiser frogs, but the taste wins over every time! 🙂

    January 22, 2008 at 10:25 am
  • Oh, dear, Nath. I think I won’t tell Claudine what Moumoune means in Québec. It just got invented in one of those rounds of jokes and teasing. Claudine absolutely didn’t want to be called “Grand-mère” or (gasp!) “Mémère.” So everyone started making up names & that one stuck.

    I didn’t realize you could eat those snails as well, Chaton! Interesting…not that I plan to try it! I have had my dose of snails for this lifetime, thanks! 🙂

    January 22, 2008 at 1:22 pm
  • LOL, good idea Laura. That’s what I was thinking too… that it probably didn’t have a meaning in France… cos seriously, I don’t know anyone who would like to be called Moumoune here in Qc ^_^;

    January 23, 2008 at 9:56 am

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