Ever eat a frog? Me neither. Not the whole thing anyway. I have tried frog legs once or twice. They were OK. And yes, they taste like you-know-what, but then, doesn't everything? Does everything weird have to taste like chicken? Is there a rule about that somewhere? You mean nothing strange ever tastes like ham? Almonds? Spam maybe? Nope, just chicken. I don't understand.
At any rate, frog legs have become a hot item, and they are just one of two animal stories that popped up this week – the other being Paul the Octopus from Oberhausen, Germany, and his career as a World Cup commentator, but more on Herr Paul later.
Frogs and their little legs made the national news this week, and who should be in the middle of it, but our very own Dan Marcheano, commanding general of The Arches, now in the third of its nine lives at 1617 Westcliff Drive, in the space formerly occupied by Ristorante Max.
According to ABCNews.com, people around the world are eating too many frogs, legs and otherwise, which is putting an endangered species at an even greater risk. Apparently, the appetite for frog legs in this country has soared, approaching that of the French, who eat frog legs like they were Double-Double's, which do not taste like chicken.
ABC News cites a number of restaurants around the country where the frog legs just keep coming – Brasserie Jo in Chicago, Tex-Mex chain Uncle Julio's Rio Grande and, wait for it – The Arches in Newport Beach.
ABC not only quotes Marcheano but manages to misspell his name, twice: "'We sell the hell out of them,' said Dan Marciano, owner of The Arches in Newport Beach, California which has served frog legs sautéed in garlic butter sauce as an appetizer and entrée since the 1940's. Marciano said Hollywood stars and locals alike love the French recipe."
Hmm. Maybe they were thinking of Rocky Marciano. Or Rocco Sammartino, or Marcello Mastroianni. Those Italian names all sound like.
As you might suspect, there are people, to say nothing of frogs, who are not amused by any of this. As quoted by ABC News, Dr. Kerry Kriger, founder of "Save the Frogs" – and yes, there is such a thing – says that "It has been estimated that globally 100 million frogs are taken out of the wild for use as food each year."
That's a lot of frog legs: 200 million, if my math is correct. Frog advocates would like to see some controls put in place, if not an outright ban, on capturing, cooking, eating or otherwise annoying frogs. France, where the life expectancy of a frog is about 3.5 minutes, passed a strict anti-frog-bothering law in 1980, which reduced their frog legs consumption considerably.
Some people would like to see the same done here. We will keep a close eye on that, but for the time being, if frog legs are what you are all about, the Arches on Westcliff is where you go – although I would opt for the brick-oven pizza or their signature steaks in a heartbeat. There are a lot of things that I will eat…Kermit is not one of them.
And that brings us to Paul the Octopus from Oberhausen, who can't understand the hubbub over frogs, which have only two extremities, and those don't even have suckers.
Paul hangs out at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen where, in 2008, his wranglers set up a display to entertain visitors in which Paul's food – he loves mussels – sits in two boxes with a picture of something on them. When the feeding bell sounds, visitors on the other side of the glass guess which box Paul will pick and cheer him on. I guess you have to be there.
Starting with the 2008 European Football Championship – that's soccer to you – Paul's staff started draping the flags of Germany and whoever Germany was playing on Paul's feed boxes so he could make his pick. Paul and his watery predictions were so popular that the aquarium kept it going through this year's World Cup. How did Paul do?
Since 2008, Herr Paul has called 11 out of Germany's 12 matches correctly. In this year's World Cup he predicted Germany would beat Argentina, England, Australia and Ghana but lose to Serbia and Spain, all of which was spot on. Not bad for a soccer fan, especially one with eight arms.
On Friday, Paul made his pick for today's final between Spain and the Netherlands and said Spain would take home all the mussels. When Paul predicted, correctly, that Germany would lose to Spain in the semi-finals, all of Germany gasped. He has received a number of death threats, although Spain has offered to send a 24/7 security detail, until tomorrow morning anyway.
For weeks, television news crews from around the world have been camped out at Paul's tank, waiting for him to do his thing. Through it all, Paul has made only one comment: "You people need to get a life, and are there any more mussels?"