The Bullfrog Dinner: 1848

frogdinnerOne day, as Zachariah Hodgson was going to his daily avocations after breakfast, he purchased a fine large codfish, and sent it home, with directions to his wife to have it cooked for dinner. As no particular mode of cooking was described, the good woman well knew that, whether she boiled it or made it into a chowder, her husband would scold her when he came home. But she resolved to please him once, if possible, and therefore cooked portions of it in different ways. She also, with some little difficulty, procured an amphibious animal from a brook back of the house, and plumped it into the pot. In due time, her husband came home. Some covered dishes were placed on the table, and with a frowning, fault-finding look, the moody man commenced the conversation.

“Well, wife, did you get the fish I bought?” “Yes, my dear.”

“I should like to know how you have cooked it. I will bet anything that you have spoiled it for my eating. (Takes off the cover.) I thought so. What in creation possessed you to fry it? I would as lief eat a boiled frog.”

“Why, my dear, I thought you loved it best fried.”

“You didn’t think any such thing. You knew better; I never loved fried fish. Why didn’t you boil it?”

“Dear, the last time we had fresh fish, you know I boiled it, and you said you liked it best fried. But I have boiled some.”

So saying, she lifted a cover, and, lo! the shoulders of the cod, nicely boiled, were neatly deposited in a dish, a sight of which would have made an epicure rejoice, but which only added to the ill-nature of her husband.

“A pretty dish this!” exclaimed he. “Boiled fish? Chips and porridge! If you had not been one of the most stupid of womankind, you would have made it into a chowder!”

His patient wife, with a smile, immediately placed a tureen before him, containing an excellent chowder. “My dear,” said she, “I was resolved to please you. There is your favorite dish.”

“Favorite dish, indeed,” grumbled the discomfited husband; “I dare say it is an unpalatable, wishy-washy mess. I would rather have a boiled frog than the whole of it.”

This was a common expression of his, and had been anticipated by his wife, who, as soon as the preference was expressed, uncovered a large dish near her husband, and there was a large BULLFROG, of portentous dimensions and pugnacious aspect, stretched out at full length! Zachariah sprung from his chair, not a little frightened at the unexpected apparition.  

“My dear,” said his wife, in a kind, entreating tone, “I hope you will at length be able to make a dinner.”

Zachariah could not stand this. His surly mood was finally overcome, and he burst into a hearty laugh. He acknowledged that his wife was right, and that he was wrong, and declared that she would never again have occasion to read him such another lesson; and he was as good as his word.

The National Era [Washington, DC] 8 June 1848:  

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:

Mrs Daffodil has heard the following story from the great-grandaughter of a lady who was similarly afflicted with a disagreeably epicurean husband en secondes noces. When newly married, she made the gentleman a dinner of chipped beef on toast. He glowered at it and declared that he did not like chipped beef on toast. She removed the offending article saying simply, “You’ll eat it.” The next morning she placed his breakfast before him: the chipped beef on toast from the evening before. “I told you,” he said, “I don’t like chipped beef on toast.” She again removed the plate, quietly remarking, “You’ll eat it.” That evening, she smiled as she served him the same chipped beef on toast, rather past its prime. He looked at her.

And he ate it. They had a long and happy marriage.

In the case of the bullfrog dinner, Mrs Daffodil would have been inclined to upend the chowder on the husband’s head at the first sign of fractiousness.

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