Victor and I sent our grandchildren an early Christmas gift of a tank containing two bright green frogs, contrasting pink gravel, a year’s worth of frog food and other assorted frog-related paraphernalia. Our son-in-law was home alone when this package arrived.

He ate both of the frogs, basted with olive oil and fresh rosemary, and lightly grilled.

Now, do not be so quick to judge.

You would forgive him this momentary, seemingly inexplicable indiscretion if you knew all the facts in play here.

Victor and our son-in-law are both ardent carnivores. As a result of this, they exchange virtually identical gifts every birthday and Christmas: meat. Styrofoam containers bypass each other in the mail each holiday, containing, for example, steaks or varieties of salami. The surprise, naturally, is exactly which remarkable type of meat is included under the dry ice each time.

When our son-in-law opened the package, which was addressed to both him and my daughter, he made the assumption that he had received his meat gift. It was a misunderstanding that we should have foreseen.

You should also know that our son-in-law, due to medical restrictions, has been on a severe sodium restricted diet for almost two years. During this time his diet has consisted of the same exceedingly boring and tasteless foods, day after day after day, containing especially low levels of sodium. Serendipitously, these particular frogs happened to be appropriately low in sodium content.

This strict regimen has affected his culinary, parental and conventional judgment. The bright green frogs were irresistible. Who among you would begrudge him this soupçon of diversification in his tedious diet?

Fortunately, our grandchildren were gamboling in the park when this act of extraordinary, but erroneous impropriety took place. Their father, after swiftly despatching the two lightly grilled frogs, immediately realized his horrible misunderstanding. He went about putting right his blunder.

Their father is renowned for his ingenuity.

He drove to a near-by Dollar Store and purchased miniature Christmas ornaments, each water-resistant, and strung them on silver and gold threads in the tank of water with the bright pink gravel. He even found waterproof colored lights to light up the water. He always does a superb job with everything to which he sets his mind, so the frog-free tank was transformed into an elaborate and aesthetically pleasing Christmas decoration.

Our grandchildren are quite young and naïve, so they were easily convinced that their grandparents had sent them an extravagant Christmas decoration, which, though not actually animate, required monthly feedings for a year.

The night after each monthly feeding, when his children have gone to sleep, their father strains the adulterated water and replaces it with Perrier, which he has on hand since he formerly loved to drink it, but now cannot, due to its high sodium levels. This keeps the water pristine and lovely, even somewhat bubbly for a short time.

You might have thought that the impropriety of consuming your children’s pets would result in their psychological harm, but you forget! They never knew about the existence of the frogs to begin with.

In fact, this rejuvenated tank of inanimate, yet hungry, Christmas ornaments has turned out to be their favorite Christmas gift, a win-win, so to speak, (except for the frogs, of course.)



(Gentle reader, if you were truly appalled by this tale, I humbly beg your forgiveness. Most of this story is true. Occasionally, the total truth vexes me, when, with just a tweak, it becomes more palatable, if you will excuse the pun. I will, charitably, reassure you, gentle reader, that said frogs are in good health. One has been named “Hug” and the other “Kiss.” They live in their rather ordinary tank on an ordinary kitchen table in our grandchildren’s house.) (Ho hum, ho hum, ho hum.)









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IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

123 responses to “The Unexpected Christmas Gift”

  1. How did they taste? Did he get the obligatory meat gift later? What meat was it?

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      I can’t tell what his gift is yet, cause he didn’t get it yet. It’s supposed to be a surprise!

      I’m sure that they tasted like chicken, though.

  2. keiko says:

    I actually just met hug and kiss and wondered where they came from and why your grandchildren have pet frogs. thanks for explaining!

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      This is just the first volley in the war to get my grandkids something with fur.
      I do NOT give up easily!

    • Sara Zion says:

      yes, keiko,
      and the only reason we knew to open the box *right freaking away* is that it was
      labeled “perishable live fish.”
      no fish, but no disappointment either. 🙂

      one never knows what to expect from the zion grandparents.

      • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

        Why, in heaven’s name, did they call the frogs “fish?”
        That doesn’t make any sense at all!
        It’s the same number of letters, why not just write the correct thing?

        I’d love to know how the frogs were packaged. They are supposed to stay in the water, but I can’t see a package filled with water coming through the mail. Please tell?

  3. Ben says:

    If you really want to make Tushar’s Christmas, get him an oven that gets up to 1200 degrees. Until then he is just chasing the Ruth’s Chris dragon.

    I wish I had been there with him. Tushar and I always have fun cooking, and I bet raw, vinegar-flavored frog is outstanding.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      And, Ben, he is a kind man who would certainly share, even if he only had two measly frogs.

      Can you buy an oven that gets to 1200 degrees for a regular house?

    • Sara Zion says:

      an explanation is required here:
      ben and tushar tried to make fried chicken and inexplicably substituted the brining called for in the recipe for
      (i am not making this up)
      *marination in loads freaking loads of vinegar*
      and then undercooked the chicken when they were deep-frying it.

      they got some fascinating, if inedible, results.

      • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

        But Sara,

        The best chefs begin with the biggest mistakes. Ben and your husband will be amazing chefs one day and will probably have a restaurant like El Bulli which makes them loads of dough, (the spending kind,) and for which they only have to work in the kitchen part time inventing absurd things.

        I could make the regular bread, but I think their restaurant will be too fancy for anything normal.

        You scoff, but just you wait!

      • That sounds interesting and terrifying. Freaking loads of Vinegar brining. Oh my.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          That isn’t the part that makes me gag.
          It’s the part about eating the chicken when it was half raw and the juices still running red.

  4. Zara Potts says:

    Irene! Swapping meat?? I’ve never heard of such a thing!
    So nice to see your name on the page again…I have missed you! xx

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      You bet, Zara, this is a meat-swapping family, except for the weeney vegetarians, that is.
      (I think they swap root vegetables….)

      I’ve been gone sailing the Atlantic Ocean all the way from Barcelona to Miami. It was heavenly, but I missed you all. Internet was 62 cents a minute!!!!

  5. Elizabeth Collins says:

    Irene, you always crack me up. Great family anecodote. (I wish I could meet your family.)

    Don’t even tell me the eating frogs part wasn’t true.

    But I did wonder how he killed them. I would think that part would be hardest to (no pun intended–or maybe I DO intend the pun…you decide) digest.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      You know, Elizabeth, that would have been a good thing to have found out before I wrote this. You’d think they would be really slippery and hard to hold when you tried to cut them up. I’ll have to ask.

      In serious Chinese restaurants, I think they eat the whole frog, without intestines, I hope. I’m not sure of this. Once Victor and I went to a really authentic Chinese restaurant where he got a bowl of duck tongues for an appetizer, (at least 25 or 30 of them!) and each tongue had a BONE in it! Tongues with bones inside! REally.

      Wait, I wasn’t talking about that. Oh. The frog thing. He ordered a frog dish by pointing at the squiggles on the menu next to a frog and this dish came that was full of teeney tiny little shards of frog bone and lots of teeney tiny little pieces of frog meat. It appeared that at least one whole frog was in there, if not more!

      I loved your pun. Keep ’em coming!

  6. Melissa (Irene's friend) says:

    More dreams? First refrigerators, then sea monsters. Frogs now?


    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


      This ain’t no dream.

      You have to deal with your tendency to mix fiction and non-fiction in life. It could cause problems later on when your daughter, say, says that you’re demented when you are only doing things you always have done before.

      • Melissa (Irene's friend) says:

        The thing is..She already thinks I am demented. The boys are still on my side though so all is good.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Two against one, Melissa!
          The math is in your favor!

          My kids all think I’m demented. I’m sort of used to it now. It will only become a problem if they try to institutionalize me.

          That would get my dander up!

  7. King Saul says:

    The normality of aberrant. The bizarre lying next to the normalcy of every day life. Mount Everest rocky horror canvases. All of these blanketing the lives of truly good people as uncommon as rare can be.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      My, oh my, King Saul,

      This is very profound. The normality of the aberrant. You’re really brilliant. I didn’t think of it this way, but this sort of thing happens more often than people talk about, cause it’s sort of creepy in a clever sort of way!

  8. jmblaine says:

    the total truth vexes me, when,
    with just a
    tweak, it
    becomes more palatable,


    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      This is a good time of year to be saying “Hallelujah!”

      (But then, you’ve always been a timely fellow!)

  9. jmblaine says:

    As someone who comes
    from a region that
    eats exotic meats
    let me say this:

    You know what tastes like chicken?


    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Well, jmblaine,

      I’ve eaten the regular kind of frog and it actually DOES taste like chicken. And so does Alligator.
      On the other hand, guinea pig tastes exactly like pork, but with lots of tiny bones and the claws, don’t forget the sharp little claws!

      What kind of exotic meats did you eat in the religion…oh wait, you said region, not religion! That changes everything. I was thinking you ate the snakes you handled or something.

      The region. I’m going to guess at possum and squirrels. How did I do?

      • jmblaine says:

        All that and more.
        Snake, raccoon. Eel.

        While alligator can be succulent
        I find Chicken to be cheap and tastier
        than all of these.
        Adventure can be overrated.

        As for religion and meat
        few of these are Kosher

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          I’ll have to look into that.
          I have an expert couple of friends who know about all things kosher.
          I’ll get back to you.

          I’ve had eel twice a week, the japanese kind, does that count?

          Does snake taste like eel or like alligator?

          Raccoon. Humn. I’m thinking it tastes like lamb, for some reason. Can you describe it?

          In Zimbabwe, Victor ate a caterpillar, which was a staple of their diet there. I was next on line to get one, but after I saw the look on his face, I chickened out.

          In China, oh never mind. This one is WAY too long. Probably requires a post of its own.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


          I checked with my super-knowledgable Kosher friend.
          Here’s the skinny with what we’ve spoken about up until now:
          Eel, alligator, possum, squirrel, caterpillar, snake, racoon, frogs and guinea pigs are not Kosher.

          There IS a type of grasshopper that is Kosher, but since it is not clear what species of grasshopper is the one referred to in the bible, you don’t eat any, just to be certain.

      • Matt says:

        I would argue that alligator tastes more like a succulent slice of pork than any chicken. I’m with JMB. I’ve eaten all sorts of weird stuff, and only chicken tastes like chicken.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Well, Matt, I suppose that the alligator that I ate was prepared so much like fried chicken that maybe that’s all I tasted of it.
          Does anyone else think alligator tastes like pork? (Because I’ve never heard that before.)

          Now I want to know what else that’s off the beaten track, so to speak, that you’ve eaten, Matt.
          Come clean.

        • Matt says:

          Alligator. Rat. Horse. Fried grasshoppers. Nutria. Rattlesnake. Leopard shark. Sea slug. Kelp. Chocolate-coated crickets. Eel. Octopus and squid. What I was told was armadillo, though I have reason to doubt the veracity of that.

          When I finally make it down under, I’m going to eat the hell out of some wichity grubs and those big edible bugs they have in New Zealand that Zara’s mentioned a few times.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Okay, okay, Matt,
          let’s see now.
          I got you on Alligator, shark, (but I don’t know what kind,) sea slug IF it’s the same as Uni, (not sure of that,) kelp, eel, octopus, squid and Hey! I had those somethingorother Bay Bugs in Australia! They look like baby Horse-shoe crabs.
          Haven’t had horse, but only cause I couldn’t do it. Victor and Tim had horse AND colt in Italy. TRIED to have rat in China, but we were on a tour and the tour guy would NOT LET US! Can’t eat bugs, but Victor’s had chocolate covered ants and crickets and caterpillars. Nope, got me on Nutria. Rattlesnake too, got me on that one. Definitely not Armadillo, whether it was real or not.
          Do I have you on Guinea Pig? Moose? Reindeer? Lion? Live shrimp?
          (I know there’s more, I have to think on it. I realize I am trying to take credit for things that Victor has eaten here, but it’s my post.)

        • Matt says:

          Well, nutria and Guinea Pig are both rodents, so I imagine there’s not a whole lot of difference between the two….I have had moose and reindeer, come to think of it, and right now I have a pound of ground bison in my freezer; come Christmas day I’m going to barbecue me some tasty bison burgers…..

          I doubt I’d eat lion, since they’re a protected species. Same with elephants and rhinos and the various apes. I’ve got scruples here.

          Oh, and I’ve eaten ostriches and emu. Both the eggs and the meat.

          Any vegetarians who were reading this have probably long since fled, you know…

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Well, sure, bison. Every meat eater has had bison. Pshaw!
          Thanks for giving me the pass on the nutria, though.

          I my defense, I only had a small bite of lion and that was because a good friend was very excited to serve it for dinner and he was watching. It was tough and quilt-inducing.

          Elephants are protected in India, but they are a hazard to the other animals in Africa. There are so many of them that they are denuding the land of everything other plant eaters eat, and there are many kinds. To get to the tops of trees, they just knock them down. It’s an impossible quandary. I don’t know what could be done. They are such magnificent animals. Mugabe feeds his starving army with elephant, by the way.

          Okay, that reminds me, in Africa we had gemsbok, impala, wart hog, (wart hog was FABULOUS!) and ostrich, but everyone’s had ostrich.

          I’ve never had ostrich or emu eggs and not emu meat either.

          I wouldn’t eat apes or monkeys either. They’re related to us, for heaven sakes. It would be like eating a distant cousin. I have developed better scruples too. I wouldn’t eat even a bite of lion when pressured and I wouldn’t eat rhino or elephant or hippo or zebra or any of the fabulous wild animals. Even grown ups grow up.

        • Matt says:

          Come to think of it, I’ve got some distant cousins who could probably stand to be eaten a little bit. Would improve the quality of their character to no end.

          There’s an ostrich farm here, right next to the Wild Animal Park, that sells ostrich meat, eggs, and leather. Bought an egg once. It took six hours to hard boil, and was big enough to be a meal for two people, with leftovers.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          I absolutely would have cooked a pound of bacon and a pound of sausage and made biscuits and then FRIED that sucker. (And invited some friends over….)

  10. Do you have the saying in the States that we have over here, if someone is coughing, to ask them ‘Oh, got a frog in your throat?’

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Yup. We got that one.

      I wonder what makes one weird saying something that two countries across the globe use, and others are unintelligible by the other. Mysteries. I love mysteries.

  11. I love those frogs!!! I saw them in a magazine and really wanted to get them.

    I love that your family swaps meat. Meat is cool. And oddly enough, I didn’t find myself extremely disturbed when I had thought the little froggies had been sauteed. I laughed. I’m mean.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      We were lucky, Megan,

      When we ordered and sent them they just came in the mail. Now you have to actually go INTO a store to pick them up because the weather is too bad to mail them.

      I have asked at least a perquillion times how they packed the live frogs, but my daughter and son-in-law totally ignore what I ask and never answer me.

      If I find out, I’ll tell you. I think it would be interesting to know. They WERE water-living frogs, so could they just be wrapped in wet paper towels until they jiggled their way across country? How could they survive that?

      Lobsters have to be cooked alive or they are no good. Sushi has to be eaten VERY fresh or it’s no good. You can see why he was in a hurry to eat them before they went out of date, so to speak.

  12. Kate says:

    If you would like to buy my future children pets, please make them cats. Ben would never eat a cat.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


      Cats and Dogs are just NOT food. I don’t care what the Koreans and Vietnamese say. Heck they eat enormous fried cockroaches all over southeast Asia, what does that tell you about their sense of propriety? COCKROACHES! And in Burma and other places they have eaten so many song birds that you never see a song bird in the sky anymore. We were in a square with ladies wearing straw hats and from the brims were hanging fried song birds. The people there would buy one and pop the WHOLE thing in their mouths and eat them, guts, feathers, beak, bones. The whole magilla! Would you take culinary advice from people who did this?

  13. Greg Olear says:

    My daughter loves frogs. She has a big stuffed one that is her favorite, and when she sees them outside, she touches them without fear.

    I’ve eaten frogs legs. They taste like Buffalo wings without the sauce. Stringy.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      We have a big pond outside, and it’s Miami Beach so it’s warm all the time. We have SO many frogs and toads that it’s hard to take in. We have lots of fish though that eat the tadpoles, to cut back on the numbers. Those frogs are randy little things! They are screaming for mates as soon as it becomes dusk. Our house is made of cinder block and poured concrete and sometimes they can keep me awake with their amorousness.

      For two years in a row a few years back, we had zachillions of teeney tiny little frogs everywhere at the same time. You could not walk without carefully stepping around them and looking down all the time. Having the hungry fish has been a big help.

      Frogs legs don’t have to be stringy, just like fish doesn’t have to be dry. It’s a matter of how fresh they are and how well they are cooked. (That fish part sounded wrong, but I was referring to one fish. singular.)

  14. Sara Zion says:

    i also have eaten frogs’ legs. within the last few years.
    (close enough to fish that it didn’t bother me at the time, i guess)
    tasted *exactly* like i remember fried chicken tasting. the taste of “fry” was the overwhelming flavor, dominating any “frogginess” or “chickeniness” that might have been there if it were more blandly prepared. and since there is approximately 3/4 tsp of meat on that little thigh bone, really, there is more fry in the bite than meat.

    not good enough (even at a fancy-schmancy restaurant) to bend the rules for imho.

    • Tim says:

      Really, Sara?
      You broke the fish only rule for frog’s legs?

      • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

        I KNOW, Tim!
        She broke the root vegetables and Brussel sprout rule for FROG LEGS?
        Why not BACON?
        Barbecued spare Ribs?
        Racks of Lamb?
        Standing rib roast?

        I will NEVER understand that girl!

  15. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Do you know how long it took me to find out that imho is “in my humble opinion?”
    I first started with kinds of vegetarians, because that’s what I thought you were talking about.

    I think you’re right about small things that are fried. There are these microscopic whitefish that the French make that are fried and, for the life of me, I thought they were fried loose strands of small onions for months. Then Dad showed me the eyes through the batter. I felt silly. (But then, it wasn’t the first time that I’ve felt silly.)

  16. ksw says:

    good thing they weren’t poison arrow frogs. next year consider a chia pet herbal garden, perhaps in a barack obama head.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      But ksw,

      What fun would it be?
      he keeps his hair so short, you’d be cutting it all the time.

      I’m pretty sure you can’t get a tank of poison arrow frogs, but what do I know?

  17. Meat as a gift. My dad could really get behind that idea. It gives me the willies just thinking about it!

    Sailing to Barcelona?! Man, Irene, I am continually so jealous of your travels. I will continue to remind myself that someday when my kids aren’t living in the house anymore, instead of curling into a ball of sad nostalgia for their youth I can become like you and Victor and be a globe-trotter with a way more interesting life than most of the 30somethings of the world!

  18. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    You would be absolutely amazed at the array of meat gifts there are out there. specialty sausages, every cut of every animal. Victor and Tushar are so happy with this exchange, because then they are both happy.
    ‘My boys are big carnivores also, but they don’t have the freezer space that grown-ups have. (You don’t think they heard me say they aren’t grown-ups, do you?)

    It was a repositioning cruise, so it was cheap if you get the rooms at the last minute especially. the cruise line needs to get the ship from the too cold mediterranean to the nice and warm caribbean and they have to go even if they’re empty so they offer good deals.
    The best part was 7 straight days at sea. Nothing more relaxing ever!

    You still miss your kids, though, all the time. You just have to do something else, cause it doesn’t do any good.

  19. Jim Simpson says:

    It amazes me, the appeal of eating frogs legs, as well as snails; it must be one of those (I really hate this term) “bucket list” things — “sure, I ate ___ once. Not bad, tasted like ___.”

    That said, I’ve never eaten snails, but I ate frogs legs once, and they tasted like butter and Sterno — tourist trap restaurant buffet line. Actually, I worked there at the time, in high school.

    But grilled, mail-order frogs? Only you would write about that, and we’re all the better for it.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Victor and the rest of the boys in my family love frog legs. I used to eat them from time to time, but now I can’t with so many frogs in the yard serenading us, nightly. Feels too close to distant friends, I guess.
      Once, as a teenager, I was taken to the Russian Tea Room, in NYC, which may or may not still exist, and I had one half of a snail. I don’t need to eat any other snails now. I tried it and I decided against trying them again. I can’t get past the thought of slugs an snails, leaving trails as they meander. It’s a defect in my personality, I think. People with taste LOVE snails. I think I must be tasteless.
      Just look into it, Jim, one can mail order anything, just about. You’ll be surprised.
      Nice talking to you, Jim.

  20. Marcia, still in Illinois says:

    I think the lighted aquarium Christmas decoration is a fabulous idea, and I want to build one. Wouldn’t it be great for Sponge Bob fans?

    Speaking of frogs, rembember the one (coincidentally you gave it to us) that ate the weights from the bottom of the aquarium and had to have surgery? For those of you who might read this comment and not know the history, the patient eventually died. The frog doctor told us (1) it’s hard to get the anesthetic right for an animal that small; (2) it’s very hard to get a sterile environment in which to do the surgery on something that small and (3) it’s also difficult to keep the patient damp while recovering from the surgery.

    The pet store told us to weight the frog food to keep it on the bottom of the tank where the frogs feed. The frog doctor later called the pet store and yelled at them for giving such stupid advice. Frogs, like dogs, just gulp their food and don’t check to see what might be attached to it.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Oh Marcia,

      I’m pretty sure this should be a post in itself.
      pretty sure.

      I have NOT forgotten this incident.
      Poor Mark!
      He was devastated.

      Cats, what are you going to do?

      Swimming in honey here, and loving it.

  21. What a lovely Christmas story! I love the idea of trading meat for Christmas… And why not? It’s far nicer to give someone something they’re appreciate and use than something that was just conveniently placed in a department store window. Meat swapping should be way more common.

    I have to say that I have eaten frog before and that I enjoyed it. But I’ll eat anything. I’ve eaten live animals before; I’ve even eaten a snake’s head (the video’s on YouTube, I think).

    So I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t eat a package of frogs if they came to my house…

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      When you live in Korea, I imagine that your idea of what is food changes.

      I’m sure I’m not alone here by asking you to PLEASE PUT UP THE LINK TO YOU EATING A LIVE SNAKE’S HEAD ON YouTube!!!!!!!!!

      I think this whole thing started with how disappointed Victor used to be at Christmas years ago when the kids were small. He was always getting sensible things. He used to wear nice suspenders to work and we still have at least 20 unopened boxes of them. Finally, he asked one day for people to ONLY get him cigars. (He was a mega-cigar smoker then and always bought himself cheap cigars, basically because he is what you might charitably call “thrifty.”) So each birthday and Christmas and even Anniversary, everyone bought him good cigars.

      Then this whole Lenore-challenging-her-Dad thing happened and he gave up cigars. that’s when he came up with how he only wanted meat for presents.

      Then Sara married Tushar who is like-minded about meat and the tradition began. It’s been going on a long time now.

      As soon as the other boys get bigger freezers, I’m sure that’s what they’ll want too.

      • Haha, I’m “thrifty” with myself but usually go a bit over-the-top for gifts. I’ve never in my life smoked a good cigar, but that’s mainly because I dislike smoking. I like the smell of cigars, but…

        Well, I found out that the video isn’t on YouTube, but it’s in fact on my girlfriend’s blog. Look at this – – and scroll to the bottom. There it is: snake’s head. It’s better than it sounds.

        And yes, Korea warps your opinions. I’ll eat anything with or without a pulse now. I eat food that looks back at me and sometimes fights back. I eat jellyfish, squid and seaweed every day… In China I almost ate a scorpion, but I was so hungover I couldn’t do it.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Yeah, well, David,

          The fact that the snake head had “lots of bones” wouldn’t be the thing that held me back.
          I might have tried it, but, as with the Zimbabwean caterpillar, seeing your girlfriend’s face when she ate it. She did not look like it was tasty. And you sounded as though you would never get all the bones out of your mouth.
          I wish you had a better close-up of the cooked snake head, though. It was pretty ugly, from what I could see.
          I misunderstood and thought that you actually bit the head off of a live snake. I’m really glad you didn’t do that.

        • Oh no, I actually really like snakes. I find them very charming… Ho ho ho… I only ate it because I was curious.
          And yeah, it was strangely full of bones, which actually turned out to be fangs. Or at least two of them, I think, we fangs. Or fang shaped bones…
          It really didn’t taste that bad. Like I said, it was like fishy-chicken or chickeny-fish.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          If the snake had fangs, David, the fangs could have contained venom.
          You were out there with your girlfriend eating venomous snakes?
          You should find safer things to do together.

        • Matt says:

          I’ve had rattlesnake. We deboned it first, then fried in a pan with some garlic and olive oil. Know what it didn’t taste like? Chicken.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          David didn’t think his Korean snake tasted like chicken, either. He just said it tasted like snake, though, which was hardly helpful to those of us who have never sat down to a snake meal.

          So what did your American rattlesnake taste like, Matt?

        • Matt says:

          I would agree with David. Snake tastes like snake. Maybe it kind of has the texture of chicken, but not the flavor.

        • Zara Potts says:

          You people really shouldn’t be eating snakes.

        • Matt says:

          Better that than deep-fried kiwi.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          My son-in-law never saw a kiwi fruit back in his college days and Sara gave him one to try and he bit through the furry skin as though it were a peach. I think that’s pretty funny.

          Did you know that they used to call kiwi fruit Chinese Gooseberries? Seriously, they did.
          They sell much better named kiwi.

          They FRY them in NZ?

        • I’ve always liked snakes so I’ve been opposed to the idea of eating them, but when one’s on a menu in a weird country… Curiousity took me and I couldn’t help myself. I just wish it was deboned.

          Anyway, it was fangtastic…

        • Matt says:

          Uhhhh….Irene? I was talking about the kiwi bird, not the kiwi fruit.

          …although they thought of flash-frying some kiwi fruit in a pan with a bit of caramel sauce and cinnamon actually sounds kind of good….

        • Matt says:

          OKay! I know I coded that correctly, and everything after fruit should NOT be in bold. Way to EPIC FAIL, WordPress!

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          So far, WordPress hasn’t recognized any code I’ve used, either.
          How did you get bold out of WordPress, though? I could use that knowledge instead of putting things in capital letters for emphasis.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Did you all see what David said up there? (I can’t get any closer.)

          He said the snake was “fangtastic.” Come one, that’s just wonderful, eh?

        • My girlfriend struggles to cope with me: I talk like that 24 hrs a day. So many puns.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


          They eat the sweet kiwi bird? Tell me it isn’t so!

          (Also, I thought they were extinct….)

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          I think that there are two kinds of writers:
          The ones that talk all the time and the ones that talk mainly in their heads.

          (I LOVE puns.)

        • Matt says:

          Irene, you should have seen the pun David made at me via Twitter yesterday. Clever one, he is.

          And to the best of my knowledge, Kiwis (people) do not eat kiwis (bird), only kiwis (fruit). It’s their national symbol. That would be like us eating the bald eagle.

        • Yes, my humous is pun-ishing.

          And I like Seoul related humour. Why not? Korea uses it. It calls itself the “Seoul of Asia”… Ouch. I call it the “Asseoul of Asia”.

          Also, see “I’m in Seoul but I’m not a soldier” and various other bordline funny puns.

        • Damn, I meant to say “humour” not “humous”..

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          “Humous” is a spelling variation of “hummus.” There’s also “hoummos.”
          We were also talking about food, although hummus isn’t exactly off-putting, which was the kind of food we were referring to. You could have been expressing bad cooking skills.
          “Asseoul of Asia” is a pretty good one.
          You get more points.

        • “Asseoul of Asia” is the only one I can claim to have invented. I use the rest, but I’m pretty sure I read them elsewhere. Whenever anyone comes to Korea they think up some Seoul/soul pun and soon realise it’s old news.

  22. Lenore, so happy that you are back! My mother always claimed I was a lazy chewer as a child – took me forever to get down a bite of chicken or a piece of meatball – which is the reason she has given to anyone who will listen when she whispers that I am a vegetarian…. I wonder, are frogs chewy?

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Honestly, Robin,
      They really taste just like chicken in every way.
      Just smaller.
      Lenore never left, by the way, I did.
      I’m just teasing you, at least twice for every one of my post people call me Lenore.
      I think it’s funny, although Lenore may not. I’ll have to ask her.
      I think she probably doesn’t care either.

      • I need to limit my comments to morning when I have only had coffee. Late night and too many glasses of wine… not a good thing.. Irene!!!!

        • Kimberly says:


          A LAZY CHEWER?

          You were a strange and curious child, indeed!

          (Also: I can’t wait to start your book on the plane on Wednesday!!!)

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


          If that were the rule, I might never be able to comment.

          Besides, it seriously does happen every single time I post. I don’t always say anything, but, as I said before, I just have a bit of the devil in me today.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


          I forgot to tell you.
          The Summer We Fell Apart is available on kindle. I just pre-rdered it for January 5th. I travel a lot, so if a book I want to read is available on kindle that’s where I get it.

  23. Tim says:

    I thought you were serious. Thought Tushar really did eat them.

  24. Kimberly says:

    Irene – your stories consistently amuse and amaze.

    Now *I* want frogs for Christmas. Sauteed. With garlic.


  25. Ducky says:

    Didn’t the big tank tip him off that perhaps this wasn’t the meat exchange?


    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Just imagine:
      He was awaiting his meat gift.
      Meat arrived.
      He has been starved of interesting food for two years.
      He thrills at the thought of a brand new never-before tasted meat.
      He was ecstatic.
      He was irrational due to ecstasy.

      It could happen to you, too, were you he.

  26. Ruthie says:

    I loved the story but you must realize that now you are a writer of fiction!!! I must admit I liked the story better when I thought it was true. It would have been a great family story to pass down through the generations. Hmm, now when you write family stories I may have a bit of doubt..
    Keep up the great writing.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


      I had a hard time figuring out how to label this.
      I decided in the end that since I came clean in the “gentle reader” part, that it was okay to call it non-fiction.
      Really, I had a bit of the devil in me.
      It wasn’t my fault.

  27. Matt says:

    Damn, Irene. I really wish you hadn’t put that postscript up. I very much want to believe you have family members who will just eat any random animal mailed to them.

    Found myself thinking “He ate the frogs?! What is he, French or something?” But that was wrong of me and I feel bad. The poor froggies get made fun of enough as it is.

    I like the idea of meatswap. We should include it in the TNB Cultural Exchange. So far it’s just been candy and baked goods.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      I HAD to add the postscript, Matt. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been non-fiction, right? I am not supposed to just make shit up. I only tweaked the truth a little and then I came clean in the end.

      • Matt says:

        I don’t care if you made it up or not. I’m still going to believe there are members of the extended Zion clan who just eat any ol’ animal that happens to arrive in the post.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Actually, Matt, you would be right. There is NOTHING at all that I can think of that Victor won’t at least eat some of. I think that Tim is the same. Ben too. Maybe Tushar, not totally sure of that.
          Mostly it’s a manly thing in the Zion clan.
          (Although, if you say that to Lenore, she’ll probably eat anything to prove she’s manly too.)

        • Matt says:

          From my inspection of her fridge and cabinets, I would conclude that Lenore subsists entirely on sugar, laxative tea, and cat food.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          I think that is her preferred diet. She does like Challah and home made Italian bread, but she doesn’t want me to teach her how to make it. You did forget the quadruple shot lattes she has every morning.

  28. Pamela Norinsky says:

    I used to eat frog legs years ago. Now I don’t think I will ever order them off a menu or think about making them myself. I do hope your grandchildren enjoy the frogs for many years to come. You are one very funny person! Happy Holidays to you and your family…

  29. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Thanks, Pamela!
    You can’t stop eating them because some people have them as pets.
    People keep fish as pets and they still eat fish, right?

    You’re pretty funny yourself, Pamalamadingdong!

  30. HajAaba says:

    It reminds me of my uncle who lives away from my city. I miss him so much.Iordered a gift from I hope he can enjoy it.
    When I was a little girl, every Christmas my uncle gave me a surprise. If he were here, he would give me another 2009 surprise.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      That is a great site, HajAaba!

      But there’s no way for us to know what you got him. EVERYTHING is on that site!
      So. What did you get him? We won’t tell and I’ll bet he doesn’t read this.

  31. mary says:

    frogs smothered in garlic taste great!

    and i bought your story hook line and sinker………..

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Sometimes I can be sneaky. I learned it from my kids. I found out after they grew up that they found all their hidden Christmas presents, unwrapped them, checked them out, re-wrapped them, and acted as surprised and delighted as can be when they re-opened them on Christmas Eve. Fooled me.
      I don’t think they ever found the stockings though, but they just might not have told me yet.

      (Good pun, by the way, Mary!)

  32. Amy says:

    Glad to know there was a twist at the end. I read the story outloud to my husband and sister who really did not have a comment till they were relieved to here it was not all true!

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


      Tell your husband and sister they are total weenies!

      (And I miss you!
      We had some massive water leak outside so we are going on 2 days without water. You do know you need water for the toilet, right? Things are interesting at the Zion house. 7 people coming to stay on the 26th. REALLY hoping we have water by then.)

  33. John P says:

    We used to have a large pet frog named Clyde. Kind of like a bullfrog but not. He was huge, and he ate worms and chunks of steak and had rows of tiny sharp teeth and would bite you if you got too close. Most of the time he just sat there under his heat lamp. Very boring. I think frogs make better food than pets.

  34. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    John P?

    You know it is REALLY hard to make me gag, but for some reason, (gag,) reading about Clyde had me gagging non-stop. I’m still gagging.
    I didn’t know they ate worms,(gag,) and meat, (gag,) and had rows of tiny sharp teeth, (gag.)
    You kept this thing, (gag,) under a heat lamp? (gag) as a pet? (gag)
    Did the heat make it smell? (gag)
    Who GOT this creature for you? (gag)
    Probably some crazy sick uncle, right?

  35. lonny says:

    wow mom
    you sure do feel free to pass on ppls private medical info and personal business to the world

    some might find that irksome

    regardless i approve of eating frogs

  36. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    I didn’t mention your Tourrettes, did I?
    Did I talk about you’re only having one eye in the middle of your forehead?
    The “wolfman” thing?
    I am the epitome of propriety and confidentiality.
    Ask anyone.

  37. sara says:

    you tricked me! if it weren’t for that final paragraph, i would have thought this really happened. do you really do a meat gift exchange though? cuz that’s an awesome idea.

  38. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    We’ve been doing a meat exchange for years! We just got an enormous sausage bonanza. All Italian and about 8 different kinds. Luckily most are dried, so we don’t have to eat them all this week!

    yeah, I meant to trick you.
    I’m sorry.

  39. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Oh Lordy!
    A HUGE styrofoam box full of strip steaks just arrived!
    It’s not just Tushar anymore!
    This is the life!

    These were packed in dry ice, which is SO MUCH FUN!
    (Remember, never touch it!!!)
    You put it in the sink and run water over it and the kitchen fills up with steam.
    Too bad we don’t have any actual children here to enjoy this sillliness with me!

  40. Marni Grossman says:

    My sister received a frog (by mail) for her birthday when she was seven. The pet store from which my mother ordered the frog said that he’d last about two years. That was eighteen years ago. My sister has moved away. Gone to college. Gotten married. But frog? Frog persists.

  41. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Oh my, oh my, Marni, this may not be the kind of news that the parents of my grandchildren need to hear. No, I’m thinking it’s not at all what they should hear.
    Let’s hope that neither of them will read this.

    I had absolutely NO idea that the life-expectancy of frogs was so long.
    They send one year’s worth of food, right? So probably that’s all they’d need, was my thinking.

    Your poor mom! Usually a parent gets stuck with an old cat or an old dog when their child goes away to school, but an old frog?

  42. […] 10. The Unexpected Christmas Gift, Irene Zion […]

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  44. Erika Rae says:

    I’m so sad I missed this when it came out! I’m not sure what to say for myself. As for your son-in-law, that is an excellent story. Did somebody already ask this: how big were those frogs???

  45. Irene Zion says:

    Erika Rae!

    Where did your photo go?

    The frogs are really tiny little guys, if you read to the postscript, you’d know their names are “Kiss” and “Hug.” My grandchildren named them.

    Surprising how many people don’t read until the end….

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