After the local frogs keep him awake all night, Chris Stewart decides that revenge is a dish best eaten at his local restaurant
Most nights, it’s the nightingales that keep us awake, but last night it was the frogs. All night long the raucous batrachian cacophony continued; I suppose they were crazed by the moon, or perhaps a fortuitous alignment of the Frog-star or whatever celestial body it is that ordains the ways and being of amphibians.
Whatever... it was a sound that got to me in my bed. In the bottom lay the deep bass borborygmus of the old bullfrogs; the more mellifluous burblings of their younger colleagues lightened the tone a little, while the plaintive squeaking of the sportive tadpoles lent an air of muted gaiety.
I’m sort of ambivalent about frogs; the story of the Frog Prince goes deep in all of us. There is a certain attraction to them, and their curious means of courting and their ridiculous means of locomotion even engender a certain sympathy. A frog sitting on a lily pad, which is what they mostly do, is a poignant theme for musing. But even so, a night without sleep goes a long way to putting you right off frogs. Thus I resolved to go to Granada and even the score by eating some.
I found a restaurant that had ancas de rana on the menu. I went in and ate a plate of frogs’ legs – a lot of bones and a bit short on flavour.
I asked the bartender: “Where do these frogs come from?”
“These days they come from Indochina,” he said. He seemed disposed to be communicative.
“But before, they used to breed them in Chauchina, out in the vega of Granada. There were a couple of farms out there which supplied all the frogs that Spain needed. But then these oriental frogs appeared and undercut the Chauchina operation. They closed the farms down but not before a whole lot of the frogs had made it over the wall. They found the country round Chauchina much to their liking – it’s a big bog out near the airport – and naturalised there. The country round about is heaving nowadays with the old Chauchina frogs.”
He looked at the bones on my plate.
“I see you love the frog,” he said with a conspiratorial leer.
“Not really; I’m just trying to get my own back. They keep me awake all night, you see.”
“Hmm,” he mused. “If you want to eat the real thing, there’s a bar in Chauchina that serves what they call calamares de secano [dry-land squid]. The bar’s called el Pisoton [the Stomp].”
I headed out to el Pisoton and ordered a plate of calamares de secano. The couple who ran the bar looked at me quizzically as I toyed with the dish.
“This is an odd sort of a frog,” I suggested.
“It’s not a frog,” they said. “It’s onions. Chauchina’s onions have the odd property of looking and tasting like squid rings."
I agreed; they were good onions. The prawns, though, were exquisite. Probably bog-prawns.