Of the frogs and toads, and how the Indians eat them.
Translated by Kendal Simmons ‘23
In this book, I had originally decided not to speak about toads and frogs, as I wanted to put them in with other types of animals. However, it seems to me that the delicacy of frogs is no longer despised in Spain and has even made its way to our grand Emperor’s table. Consequently, these frogs and toads are indeed worthy of being considered a delicacy and will be categorized as such, just like the other animals I have spoken about, such as the manatee and the other excellent fish I have mentioned. I believe that the origin of the frog’s estimation can be accredited to Mercurio, grand chancellor of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor King, our Lord. One day, I heard him say (in the city of Vitoria, the year 1524, on a Friday, when the excellent lord Fernando de Aragón, Duke of Calabria, was eating with the aforementioned grand chancellor and had brought to his table a plate of stewed frogs) that during the previous week he sent another plate of the frogs to the Emperor, who said to Mercurio that they had tasted very well, but that Mercurio did not intend to send any more because he did not want the frogs to be blamed if His Majesty were to become ill. Furthermore, if the Emperor had enjoyed the frogs so much, he could request his own and have them sent to be stewed. It does not amaze me that the grand chancellor brought this delicacy to Spain, since he was from Italy, where for a long time they have eaten frogs and consider them a good delicacy. And many years before he introduced frogs to Spain, I had eaten them in Mantua, Rome, Naples and other parts of Italy. They are sold publicly in the plazas as a healthy, easily digestible and tasty delicacy. Of those types of frogs there are many on this island of Hispaniola and in all the other parts of the Indies, but they do not eat them on this island since they are not accustomed to it.
I wanted to talk about the toads here because of the similarity they have in their form to frogs, even though they are much bigger and uglier due to the swollen appearance of their bodies. There are many toads on this island, but I do not believe that they would sit well in the stomach of someone who ate them, even though in many parts of the Mainland and of the southern coast toads are eaten. I had a slave from that area and just a few days after she ate one of these frogs, she fell ill. Four or five days after that, she died. And it is believed that she was killed by the toad and not something else. She must have thought that the toads of this island were not dangerous, like those of her homeland that are in fact eaten. The toads from Spain are also poisonous and bad, and so much more so when they come from colder land. They breed them and fatten them in some parts of the Mainland in order to eat them as a very prized delicacy. I have seen the Indians of this land eat them sometimes, but never in my life have I seen a more disgusting or worse-looking dish. The Indians laughed heartily at this because these toads are so pleasant to their palate and they thought it very ignorant of me to find such a fine meal so abhorrent. But more about that in its place, since I don’t want to combine topics or move them away from their proper place, since this delicacy belongs to the Mainland, where toads are valued and used commonly, just like how Spain values bread, cows, or any other of the most common foods that men consume for their sustenance.