Frogs in the doghouse ! | By Khalid Saleem

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Frogs in the doghouse !


IN this time of the Corona Virus pandemic, it may be time to do a bit of introspection.

A good look over the shoulder in times like the present can do a lot of good in such depressing milieu, or so one is led to believe.

So how about taking a peep at the not so recent history of international affairs for a change? The history of French-American relations is as good a subject as any.

So here goes! As one recalls the Americans were well and truly cheesed off with the French around the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Having been fed over the years with the doctrine that ‘what the US wants, US gets’, the American man in the street was finding it difficult to ingest the fact that the frog-eating French should not only be standing up to their superior logic, but also actually demanding to know ‘the reason why’.

As things stood at that time, the official standoff between the United States and France could be perceived in the context of international geopolitics.

It did not shock any one. Genuine differences on policy matters, it could be argued, could crop up among even otherwise friendly states.

What was difficult to understand, though, was the fact that the American public opinion should be brainwashed to such an extent as to start looking askance at all things French. This is what appeared to have happened in the rather rarefied atmosphere in which the American spin-doctors survive and prosper.

It is in this context that the campaign in the United States to rename ‘French fries’ and ‘French toast’ as ‘Freedom fries’ and ‘Freedom toast’ can be viewed. This was merely the veneer.

There was a much wider campaign to vilify the French nation among the American people just because the French had exhibited the gall to express an opinion that did not square in with the ‘American way of thinking’.

In this rather unseemly war of words, the theme that kept on cropping up every now and then was that the French were somehow being ‘ungrateful’. It was being bandied about that since the American bailed out Europe in World War II, the French somehow owed them a debt of gratitude on which they were in a way defaulting.

It just goes to prove that American do not forget history; they are merely choosy about what bits to remember.

And now to add a wee bit for the information of those readers who may be intrigued by the title of this piece. It was apparently the British who gave their French neighbours the appellation of ‘frogs’.

The origins of this are a bit foggy but the fact remains that the British have over the decades continued to refer to the French as ‘frogs’.

When this rather picturesque appellation materialized is a matter best left to researchers.

What may be of interest to the layman is the trivia that at some point in history, either before or after this momentous event, the French had started to eat frogs.

One must confess that in so asserting one is not being strictly accurate. The French do not eat frogs; they savour just part of the frog, i.e. its legs.

The entrée of fried frog legs has become something of a de rigueur at the tables of French gourmets.

It is a moot point whether one should go into the intricacy of the question as to why they go for just the legs of the amphibian in question; what’s so wrong with the rest of the frog, one may well ask, at the risk of being branded a boor? But, then, that would amount to treading on thin ice.

One would be well advised not to take issue with the French, particularly in matters epicurean.

After all there are no two opinions about the front rank of the French race in the race to be bon vivant. If they insist on sticking only to a certain part of the anatomy of the lowly frog, so be it.

What brought this weighty matter to one’s attention is the discovery of an old press clipping carrying the views of a wild life expert in Paris on the danger posed to the French environment by, of all things, the ‘bull frog’.

A M Christophe Coic, head of the association CISTUDE was quoted as saying that “the unchecked proliferation of bullfrogs is threatening parts of France with an environmental catastrophe”.

M Coic is said to have warned that, “if we do nothing, the bullfrogs will overrun France within a century”.

The bullfrog in question, it appears, had been introduced into France in 1968 (by the adventurer Armand Loti) “because their legs were (and are) considered a delicacy in la haute cuisine”.

Since then, matters appear to have gotten a bit out of hand. For one thing, these frogs are said to reproduce at ‘an insane pace’, so much so that that even the huntsmen’s endeavours at shooting them for their legs can hardly keep pace.

M Coic, though, thinks he knows the answer: money, several million francs at least; and to accomplish what? Eradicate the males, of course! Since one has heard nothing to the contrary, one presumes that the matter must be under control.

‘Frog eat frog’ may be seen as a graphic representation of the saga of humankind’s continuing cruelty to members of fellow species.

In the name of ‘haute cuisine’, or whatever they call it in other tongues, man has perpetrated untold barbarities against ‘fellow’ creatures. Every now and then, there is a mild reaction.

If the bullfrogs of France are threatening that country with what has been described as ‘an environmental catastrophe’, should one be surprised? And if one goes on to apportion blame, why single out the hapless bullfrog and mark it down for eradication?
— The writer is a former Ambassador and former Assistant Secretary General of OIC.

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