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Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
Photo: Gunawan Kartapranata/WikiCommons

Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?

Oliver Gee · 12 Oct 2016, 14:02

Published: 12 Oct 2016 14:02 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 Oct 2016 14:02 GMT+02:00

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If you ask someone outside of France to list five things they associate with France, you can bet your last euro that "frogs' legs" will jump out. 
Heck, some people still refer to French people as frogs.
But do the people of France actually eat frogs' legs, or cuisse de grenouilles as they are called here?
The short answer is yes, albeit in certain parts of the country more than others.
And it appears they are making a resurgence. Ombeline Choupin has just opened Paris's first dedicated bar de grenouilles called Rainettes in the popular Marais quarter (5 Rue Caron). She clearly believes her plan has legs.
"I decided to open up a restaurant and bar specially for frogs' legs because I saw how popular they were at other restaurants I had worked at," she told The Local. "They are often just sold in posh restaurants in Paris but we think they will go down well with everyone.
"It's not just those who want to try them for the novelty, it's people who realize they are actually nice and come back for more."
So just how popular are frogs' legs in France?
The French eat an estimated 80 million a year (that's 160 million frog legs). 
If the figure seems high, don't forget that you need quite a few to make a decent meal.

A photo posted by Rainettes Paris (@rainettesparis) on

Where do they come from?
Though diners in white table-clothed French brasseries may not know it, their frogs' legs are most likely caught by hunters in the dead of the night in the murky swamps of tropical Indonesia and sold at local markets.
Indonesia accounts for around 80 percent of all European imports, in fact. 
Back in the day, they were pulled from the swamps of France, but authorities put a ban on commercial frog hunting and farming in the late 1980s as the frog populations drastically depleted. 
Back in 2013 fears were raised that the French appetite for frogs' legs was now threatening the dwindling frog population in Indonesia, where grenouilles are staple food for the local population.
Authorities in some parts of France do, however, allow frog catching if it's strictly for personal consumption. Some poachers still defy the ban, but face fines of up to €10,000.
Photo: Rainettes Paris
Are they only eaten in France?
Not at all. They're also quite popular in south-east Asia, parts of Europe, and the US is actually the second biggest importers of frogs in the world (largely thanks to the popularity of frogs' legs in the south).
And the Brits were eating them long before French, at least according to scientists in the UK. 
In 2013, archaeologists working near Stonehenge found toad bones that had been cooked and eaten on the site between 7596 BC and 6250 BC (or in other words, 8,000 years ago).
Clichés about the French all went out the window, at least for a day. 
Photo: AFP
Have they always eaten them? 
Legend has it that the French started eating frogs' legs in the 12th century when cunning monks who were forced into a "no-meat" diet managed to have frogs classified as fish. The peasants soon started to eat them too. 
Frog festival
The delicacy is particularly popular in eastern France, especially in the Vosges department. 
Every April in the town of Vittel, locals gather to eat "several tonnes" of frogs' legs in what sounds like one of the most French festivals on offer.  
The festival has been running for over 40 years. 
How do the French eat them?
Traditionally, the little thighs are grilled or deep fried. But you can also boil them, bake them, or sautée them. In other words, cook them how you like.
Once they're in front of you on a plate and ready to eat, it's traditional to eat them with your fingers. Knives and forks are often provided for those who don't want to get messy but they are best avoided given that there is not much meat on the bones.
Some diners prefer to put the whole leg in their mouth then spit out the little bones after.
So do they taste any good?
Well according to us here at The Local (hardly acclaimed food critics) it all depends on how they are cooked, which is like most dishes.
After a trip to frogs' legs bar Rainettes in the Marais we can confirm that, like many people have said over the years, frogs' legs do taste and look a little like chicken albeit a soggier version, like if chicken had been blended with fish.
For first time eaters it's perhaps important not to think about what you're devouring (especially if you watch the video below) until the psychological barrier has been broken. 
They can be fiddly and you'll need a lot to be satisfied but when they are cooked in coriander, ginger, onion, garlic, pepper, soya sauce and honey, they are pretty tasty and it's fairly easy to polish off a dozen, especially when washed down with a bouncing Bombina cocktail.
Story continues below…
So how can you cook them?
Here are five recipes in case you want to cook something un-frog-ettable for your friends. 
Are they good for you?
This delicacy is higher in protein but lower in fat than other meats including chicken. 
And frogs' legs are packed with the same omega-3 fatty acids, as well as potassium and vitamin A. Just be careful what you cook them in, as some sauces contain more salt than you might think.
They're not for everyone though, as many observant Jews and Muslims wouldn't eat them. 
And lastly... what's all this about twitching frogs' legs?
Well, because a frog is cold blooded, its muscles don't resolve rigor mortis so quickly, meaning that when you cook the legs (or add salt to raw legs) then they can twitch a bit.
Don't be frightened or put off, just be prepared. Enjoy your meal.  

Authorities in some parts of France do, however, allow frog catching if it's strictly for personal consumption. Some poachers still defy the ban, but face fines of up to €10,000.

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