This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
As is well known, Frogs are esteemed for the table in France, their thighs being chiefly eaten there, though in Germany the other muscular parts are similarly used. Even amongst ourselves, an edible Frog is found about Cambridgeshire, and Norfolk, which is of admirable nourishing use. The flesh is mainly gelatinous, and closely resembles that of delicate white chicken. Fried with tomatoes, or mushrooms, and bacon, these English Frogs are simply delicious; so says the Tramps' Handbook (1902). It is to an historical dish of Frogs served to Madame Volta, we owe the important discovery of voltaic electricity. The creatures yield a bland broth rich in mucin, and when cooked, together with edible snails, they afford a mucilaginous and gelatinous potage, which greatly comforts raw, sore, denuded lining surfaces of the mouth, and throat, serving to restore the lost protective covering of which these parts have become morbidly deprived. For such broth, hay saffron is the orthodox condiment, and colouring addition.
The edible Frog is olive-green in appearance, with yellow stripes on its back; there is no valid reason why we should regard it with aversion, as it lives on insects, and slugs, varied with vegetable matters, just in the same way as many birds, animals, and fishes which we are quite willing to consume. Frog-farming in Canada is made quite a profitable business; no fewer than 5,000 pounds in weight of Frogs' legs prepared for table use, was the output of one Ontarian farm alone during last season, and still the demand exceeds the supply.
Frog Pies were introduced into England from Italy by Thomas Coryate, (Furcifer) - (see Coryate's Crudities, 1602). "I did eate fried Frogges in this citie, which is a dish much used in many cities of Italy." They were highly esteemed in London from James the First's time till the death of Charles the Second. If fricasseed in white wine, the Frog has been long found more delicate than chicken, and an easily digested dish.
Dr. Hutchison pronounces to-day that the Rana esculenta, or edible Frog, is readily digested, and of a delicate flavour. The hind legs are taken, skinned, and the claws twisted together, in which form they resemble appetizing little lamb cutlets. "It is absolutely impossible," says a French gourmet, "to bring on an indigestion by Frogs, no matter what quantity you eat".
The edible portions should first be thrown into plenty of fresh cold water to blanch; next they should be drained, and dried; then put to soak awhile in white of eggs (well beaten up); now powder them over with flour, and finally fry them in plenty of fine olive oil until they are crisp as "the Whitebait of the Minister, that treasure of the sea," and until the bones have become changed into something so rich and strange, that they melt in the mouth. Add a lemon, red pepper, brown bread, and butter, to complete the "loaves and fishes" illusion, and say if a "fricasee de grenouilles" be not much easier to eat than to pronounce, and a species of "small deer" by no means to be abandoned to poor Tom. You can devil them, too, if you like, and they make a tip-top curry, or they fry well in batter, or you may stew them in butter, and white wine, with parsley, and garlic enough to swear by, chopped up fine. But no matter how they be cooked, they are very pretty eating, and make a delicious entree, more tender than the youngest chicken, and still with a flavour, and a velvety texture all their own. The Frog which is eaten lives chiefly on insects, so that really for the table it is considerably cleaner than the pig.
There is a painful French proverb, "II n'y a pas de grenouille qui ne trouve son crapaud," and it has a dreadful double-edged explanation. It means "there is no girl so ugly that she cannot find a more repulsive husband." We have rhymed this saying in a much prettier way, as "Froggy would a wooing go," when "a lily-white duck came and gobbled him up; etc." But ugly, or not, Froggy eats well, as we shall all probably acknowledge some day. In seeking for Frogs the French peasants often meet with toads, which they do not reject, but prepare them in a similar manner. As for the rest of the Frog's body (besides the legs), and the skin, so sticky, and slimy, what is done therewith? Why, they make turtle-soup of the same! Yes, the savoury mock turtle over which gourmands lick their lips, has for its chief foundation the amphibians which haunt the marshes and fields of Luxembourg. In Kitchen Physic we have explicitly told how the flesh of Frogs is good against coughs, and such as are hectick. Broths made therefrom are restorative, and anti-scorbutic, being prescribed by continental physicians for pulmonary consumption, skin affections, and other maladies. Frog oil has been extracted by some of our leading chemists, and used externally against cancer.
The ancient heraldic device of the Parisians was three Frogs, (or toads), and their city was Lutetia (the land of mud). As becomes a true Hohenzollern, the present Kaiser always wears the talismanic ring of his ancestors. It is a quaint old ring set with a stone of no intrinsic value, the legend connected therewith relating how a toad hopped into the room of the wife of Elector John of Brandenberg, and deposited this stone on her bed. The toad then mysteriously disappeared, but the pebble was zealously treasured among the Hohenzollern Archives. The father of Frederick the Great had it mounted in a ring, which has ever since then been worn by the Head of the House as a mediaeval Mascot. On May 12th, Anno Domini 1827, Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C. (General Chairman, and Member of the Pickwick Club), communicated a paper (received by the Association with feelings of unmingled satisfaction, and unqualified approval) entitled, "Speculations on the Sources of the Hampstead Ponds, with some observations on the Theory of Tittlebats".