What Is Frog Day?
During middle ages, when European Catholics were deemed to be growing too fat, the church authorities apparently ordered them not to eat meat on a certain number of days a year. On days when they were not supposed to eat any meat but fish, they could still eat frogs which didn’t count as meat. If it swam, they thought, it must be a fish. Hence, it was called a Frog Day.
Religiously observant but hungry French peasants duly followed their example, and a national delicacy was born. By the 1600s, Alexandre Dumas records in his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine (posthumously published in 1873), an Auvergnat named Simon was to be found making “a most considerable fortune with frogs, sent to him from his region, which he fattened and then sold to the very finest restaurants in Paris, where this foodstuff was very much in fashion”.
Frogs’ legs were even – albeit briefly – considered a delicacy in Britain around the turn of the last century, when the renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier served up a dish he called Cuisses de Nymphe a l’Aurore, or (roughly) Thighs of the Dawn Nymphs, at a grande soirée in honor of the Prince of Wales at London’s Savoy hotel in 1908.
Nymphs’ Thighs became the surprise culinary hit of the season, despite the fact that the limbs concerned – which Escoffier cooked in a court-bouillon with aromatic herbs, cooled, doused with a sauce chaud-froid colored with paprika and then decorated with taragon leaves and covered with chicken jelly – belonged to imported bullfrogs.