29 February 2008

Leap Year - Frogs and Thyme



I really wanted to write a Leap Year post for today. I have been thinking about what to write for weeks now but I have to admit – I was stumped. What does February 29, that once-every-four-years occasion, mean in culinary terms?

Frogging

My first thought was to write about frogs. I have a bit of interesting history with frogs. When I was a girl I lived in a house near a pond. My Dad and I would sometimes go fishing for bluegills there. There were also snapping turtles and frogs that lived in the pond and in spring there were many tadpoles. Sometimes we would bring a tadpole home. It was fascinating to watch it sprout legs, then slowly loose it's big tail so that it could leap between the water and the land.

Every once in a great while, on a warm summer evening, someone around our house would get the idea to go back to the pond and hunt frogs. It was an antic episode, full of adventure. When we got home my Dad would clean the frogs we caught. I remember how he would skin them, peeling off their green pajamas and laying the white fleshy legs with their long bony toes to the side. Then he would trim off their feet before dredging them in flour or cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper, and fry them in his big cast iron skillet.

The Magic of Salt

Even more memorable was the way he once entertained me and my girl friends with a trick that he knew. He showed us the plate with the feet from the frogs he had fried, then he sprinkled salt across the feet and delighted in the shrieks and laughter when the long toes began to dance! Somehow salt does that. Then he offered samples of the frog legs he had fried. He had few takers but I tried them. They were good!

I could fry some frog legs today, in honor of leap year, if I knew where to get any in this part of the country. I don’t. So I looked for other recipes that related to frogs. I found a cute sherbet frog and instructions on making frog rolls. I found a recipe for Frog Eye Salad which sounded like fun but I couldn't find the Acini de Pepe, and I found a recipe for Chocolate Frogs but too late to run out for dried apricots. What to do?

A Matter of Time

I thought some more. What is the significance of February 29? The Writer's Almanac tells me that it exists because of the need to fix a problem with the Julian calendar. A new system, the Gregorian calendar, was developed that added one day every fourth year, at the end of February, to keep the calendar in tune with the actual length of a solar year. So it seems the significance of leap year is actually time, and what could be more fitting for My Own Sweet Thyme than a post about time/thyme?

First, I want to say what an amazing gift an extra 24 hours is! Think about it. We do without this 24 hour period, this extra day in the month of February, three out of four years. So, in a sense it is an extra day in our ordered lives, a day for catching up. It also seems appropriate that it should be a day about making amends for our silly mistakes, like miscalculating the solar year, and for patching up the things that all of our best laid plans fail to account for.

And while we think about that, let's have a cup of tea. This is an herbal tea made from honey and...well...thyme! It is adapted from a recipe at The Herbal Touch. And wouldn't it go great with a batch of Thyme, Hazelnut and Lemon Cookies?


Lemon Thyme Lift

1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 small slice of lemon or a pinch of lemon zest (optional)

Boil the water. Remove it from the heat. Add the lemon thyme leaves and allow to steep for several minutes.

Strain if desired. Add the honey and stir.

Pour into cups and garnish with lemon slices or zest if desired. Sip and Enjoy!

1 comment:

Alanna said...

Aha! I wondered where you were heading! I thought there would be all kinds of Lean Year post today: not so many, I think it's funny that yours and mine are two of them!

I remember frog legs in some dive-y supper club somewhere in East Texas. I'd never had them before. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me that they'd have bones and that freaked me out and they stayed on the plate. Aiii a long time ago ...