George tells Fatty that, as a representative of French cooking, tartelettes aux avelins is a more appropriate dish than tourte aux prunes de damas, as damsons come from Damascus, so tourte aux prunes de damas is not entirely French, whereas tartelettes aux avelins celebrate Saint Philibert of Jumièges, the esteemed abbot and chef who, as a novice, working in his monastery’s kitchen, became inspired by a recipe by Saint Basil the Great of Caesarea, and created ‘Ouranophantor’ fudge flan in the great man’s honour. This proved so popular amongst the brethren that Philibert went on to invent Carmelite caramels, Macarius macaroons, and Columbanus crackers. In later life, as an abbot, Philibert opened nunneries and monasteries dedicated to producing Benedictine buns, Trappist tarts and Franciscan fruit-cakes. Rory looks relieved, so, when Fatty says that, on consideration, rather than pastries, he will serve ragoût de grenouilles, which is wholly and undoubtedly Gallic; I think it best not to tell Rory that grenouilles are frogs.
Albert says that he has a theory about why we are stuck. I tell him that inventing theories is no use; we need to do something useful. George says that he has been doing something useful; he has painted a bird. Juan says that painting a picture of a bird isn’t useful, it’s useless. I don’t think this is fair and I tell Juan that paintings are like Lowlanders, generally useless, but can be used for decoration, however, I remind George, Rory is scared of crows, so I hope that he has not painted another picture of a crow. George says that Rory has nothing to worry abut as he is has not painted a crow and he turns his canvas around to show us his painting. Seeing the painting, Rory goes white and starts to gibber. I tell George that, although it is a very nice crow, after saying that he had not painted a picture of a crow, especially to Rory, who is terrified of crows, it is not fair to suddenly present a picture of a crow.
George says that any fool can see it’s not a crow; it’s a rook, so he is surprised by Rory’s reaction. Juan says that Rory’s reaction is normal after a bottle of Vintage Highland Park Private Reserve. Fatty says that the rook looks tastier than a crow. Rory starts yelling and waving his arms around, shouting that we all know that the one subject on earth that he doesn’t want to know about, and that is the subject of eating crows, or the colour of crows or anything else about crows, but the only thing we ever talk about is crows, and he breaks down and starts sobbing into his whisky.
We all fall off our stools as The Lion tilts and lurches to the left. Aodhàn looks in to say that we are unstuck. This is wonderful news, Juan breaks out a barrel of his Special Reserve, which he keeps for such occasions, Fatty presents us with bowls of stewed frogs, then, while Rory has another breakdown, we offer toast after toast to the wonders of French culture, and, giving thanks for delectable French tarts, we inflate our bagpipes, then, cheering and shouting with excitement, playing ‘Froggie Went a-Courting’ at full volume, we stumble around in befuddled confusion, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Ingredients: 6 or 8 frogs, salad-oil, one quarter of a pint of white whine, 2 tablespoonfuls of truffle liquor, 8 fresh button mushrooms, one quarter of a pint of brown sauce, salt and pepper.
Method: The hind-quarters of the frogs alone are used, and they should be carefully separated from the rest of the body. Cover the bottom of a sauce-pan with a thin layer of salad-oil, and when thoroughly hot place in it the frogs’ legs. Fry quickly for 2 or 3 minutes, turning the legs once during the process, but most carefully so as to avoid tearing the skin and flesh. Drain, place in a casserole, add the truffle liquor, mushrooms, previously well-washed to free them from grit, and season to taste. Stew very gently for about 30 minutes, then transfer carefully to a hot dish, and strain the wine into a small stewpan. Boil quickly until well reduced, and then add the brown sauce. Season to taste, make thoroughly hot, pour over the cooked frog, and serve.
Recipe by Isabella Beeton, 1861