As a teenager in the 1960’s I went frog-gigging just one night. If you are thinking You did what?, it’s a fair question. You see, I grew up in East Texas behind the Pine Curtain where fried catfish and fried bullfrog legs are both popular meats. Except for raw oysters just scraped out of their shell, there’s probably no uglier, nastier looking creature that mankind has learned to eat than an East Texas mudcat or bullfrog. Oddly, after you get past the wide mouths and skin that doesn’t have scales like normal fish or reptiles, both catfish and bullfrogs have tasty white meat that cooks up real nice.
Back to the sport of frog-gigging, two friends and I did it in a flat-bottom aluminum fishing boat during a dark summer night. One paddler sat in the back and eased the boat along near the lake’s bank. One spotter sat in the middle and ran the bright circle from a powerful flashlight along the weeds growing in the shallow water near the bank. In the seat of honor, the hunter perched himself upfront, wielding the frog-gig trident spear. Our trident was homemade in a metal-shop. The three points were barbed like big fish hooks and the spear was an old garden tool handle.
When the spotlight caught the sparkling eyes of a bullfrog, we eased up until the hunter could make a quick thrust, aiming between the two eyes. We took turns at the three positions and after a couple of hours had impaled nigh-on a dozen croakers, and missed as many more. Smart bullfrogs quickly disappeared underwater when we made noise or were too slow or off-target with the gig thrusting. But some frogs just stayed still like deer caught in the headlights of a truck and met their end. The dumb ones, I guess.
The only danger in our night of frog-gigging came from the chance that a pair of gleaming eyes in the dark water would belong to an aggressive water moccasin and not a passive bullfrog. I don’t remember if we actually saw any cottonmouths that night, but knowing they were around added some spice to our adventure.
Cleaning the frog legs was less fun, since the legs had to be amputated and skinned for cooking. It was also a little freaky since the legs would not stay still, even after being severed from the rest of the frog carcass. Honest. A last protest to meeting such an unnatural end.
Here’s the point, our East Texas bullfrog legs were big. As big or bigger than fried chicken wings—not drumsticks which are chicken legs, but the hinged wings. Our froglegs were so big that four of them, battered and deep-fried, made a big serving.
Fast-forward fifty years to my ordering frog legs as the main course at a country restaurant in France last week. Here’s a photo of my plate before I began munching my way through the little bitty things.
They were cooked up real nice, seasoned and tasty, with or without a garlic sauce. But they came from mini-frogs, way too small to be called bull frogs.
Since I’m talking about French cuisine and I mentioned raw oysters earlier, here’s a photo of French tartare—raw hamburger meat that my sister ordered at a different cafe. I snagged a bite from her plate and decided beef is best eaten at least somewhat cooked.
And since I’m an old Civil War reenactor, here’s a photo of my mock battle with a native Frenchman who took umbrage at our visiting his 18,000 year-old art museum in a cave.
It is the last place in France where a limited number of tourists are permitted each day into the cold narrow cave to see the actual paintings just a few feet from your face. The life-size and colorful wall renderings of buffalo and horses were very darned beautiful and remarkable, It was worth taking on that skinny hairy guy to see them.
As for a book link, my visit to the French cave to see the prehistoric artwork has caused me to upscale the size of the cave painting of my giant flying horny toad dragon in my new manuscript. After all, we have to do everything bigger in Texas—frog legs and fictional cave art. J