This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, December 17, 1995
It is getting worse.
When I say "it," I am referring to the worldwide epidemic of frogs showing up in food, which I documented in a recent column describing two worldwide incidents, one involving a frog baked onto a pretzel, and the other involving a frog in a frozen Chicken Cantonese dinner.
When I say "is getting worse," I am referring to a shocking new development that occurred Nov. 5 in Orange, Calif., according to a superb story in The Orange County Register, written by Lori Basheda and sent in by many alert readers.
The story states that on Nov. 5 a man named Patrick McGowan and his family were eating at a chain restaurant called El Torito. McGowan had ordered the No. 7 combo, and noticed that the taco "was chewier than it ought to be."
"So I spit it out and there was a frog," McGowan is quoted as saying. "I couldn't believe it. I bit the damn head off."
The McGowans said they asked for a manager, but nobody showed up, so Marlaina McGowan started walking around informing the other diners: "I wouldn't eat here. There's frogs in the food."
A manager then appeared, and after a "tug of war" with the McGowans, wound up taking the frog away. The McGowans demanded custody of the frog, but the restaurant refused to surrender it.
"We want to have it checked for diseases," Marlaina McGowan is quoted as saying. "We called our doctor and he said, 'Get the frog.' "
If you know anything at all about the United States of America, then you know what happened next; namely, lawyers materialized. According to Basheda's follow-up story, the McGowans' attorney sent El Torito a letter stating: "The frog pieces will be crucial evidence if this matter proceeds to litigation. You are advised to maintain custody of the frog and insure that it is notlost, altered or destroyed in any manner."
An El Torito company spokesperson told The Register: "We're not commenting on the location of the frog. It is undergoing testing at a reputable independent lab."
As of this writing, we do not know the results of the testing. But we do know that we now have documented cases of frogs showing up in all three major food groups: (1) the restaurant group; (2) the frozen-food group; and (3) the pretzel group. Only an idiot would believe this is coincidence. This is clearly a case of frogs, acting in concert, infiltrating our food supply. And if you are not alarmed about this, then you obviously have never had a friend or loved one expire from a frog-transmitted disease.
How can you, the consumer, protect yourself? You can be very suspicious, especially if you're eating at a swank restaurant operated by French people, who are known to deliberately put frogs, and sometimes even snails, into food, then disguise them with so-called "French" names such as "escargot" (which means, literally, "They are paying to eat this! Ha ha!"). When ordering at such a restaurant, make sure you ask your waiter probing questions about the menu ("Pierre, this so-called 'fromage' -- any frogs in that?"). When your food arrives, examine it closely by flashlight and do not hesitate to take precautions ("Hey Pierre, how about YOU take the first bite of these so-called 'legumes.').
When preparing your own food at home, be sure to check the list of ingredients carefully -- and not just for frogs. I say this because recently an alert reader named Gary Osburn sent me a food product, which he purchased in Singapore, called -- I am not making this up -- "Thick Soup of Snake."
The information on the Thick Soup of Snake box is printed in both Chinese and a language that is sort of, but not quite, English. For example, the box states that in addition to "snake meat," the ingredients include "hot perfume" and "special doing first-class soup material."
In an act of unselfish journalism courage for which I should get, at minimum, a Nobel Prize, I actually made Thick Soup of Snake, with the help of my son, Rob. This was not easy, because the directions (or, as the box calls them, the "Food of way") include such statements as: "Allocate the materials becoming starch shape with the a little cold water," and "you will get a pot of heavy fragrance."
I'll say we did. I do not believe I have ever experienced a fragrance that heavy outside of an unserviced portable toilet.
"What would it take to get you to eat this?" I asked Rob.
"A new car," he said.
But I was determined to try it. I got a spoonful of Thick Soup of Snake and brought it to my lips.
"I'm going to throw up," I told Rob.
"No you won't," he said, helpfully. "Just forget it's snake."
I finally ate a little bit, and so did Rob, and we agreed that -- once you get past the fact that it smells disgusting and looks like something that had been swept from the floor of a stable full of very sick horses -- it is truly awful. I honestly think I would prefer frog.
But the point is that we're having an epidemic, and until it's over, you should be very careful about what you eat. You should consume only those foods that it would be difficult for reptiles or amphibians to hide in. Probably your safest bet is to eat nothing but M&Ms. And even then, you should steer clear of the green ones.
©1995 Dave Barry
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