January is already in its twenties and I find I keep on getting dragged back to 2008. Only yesterday I discovered that last year was the International Year of the Frog. How did I miss that ? I don’t know where or when this was decided but I can imagine the endless jokes about it being a good thing to do in a Leap Year.
Even more surprising than the fact that 2008 was international frog year was that there was also a 2008 frog of the year: the European Tree Frog (almost extinct in Belgium and posing here as the European Finger Frog). But in 2007 there was no international frog of the year but an international toad of the year (the Common Spadefoot). The reason for this seems to be that this is originally a German prize, named Froschlurch des Jahres, Froschlurch being a word covering both frog and toad. So the prize is really Frogtoad of the Year. I am really, honestly and sincerely not making fun of any of this. I think this is a wonderful idea. How can you not like the European Finger Frog ?
And the prize is surely more interesting than the Grammies, Emmies, Tonies or any other prize which sounds like a life-threatening snack sold in a over-coloured packet at supermarket counters. However i do find the Germans go a bit overboard, they also have a tree of the year, a mushroom of the year (the Blaue Rindepilz), a river landscape of the year, an insect of the year, a generic animal of the year and I forget what else.
I know several people who are constantly being reminded that this year we are all supposed to be celebrating the International Year of the Potato (Peru’s gift to the world). The Colorado Potato Beetle (Colorado’s gift to the world) is also celebrating.
Very few people, however, are aware that this is Global Artichoke Week (because it isn’t) and in view of this I have decided to post Pablo Neruda’s Ode to the Artichoke.
This poem is one of his Elementary Odes. He wrote three books of Elementary Odes, which number almost 180 in total, covering such themes as the birds of Chile, conger eel soup, thread, numbers, laziness, a watch in the night, barbed wire, his socks, the liver, soap, the smell of firewood, bicycles, a large tuna in the market, a ship in a bottle, a village cinema, the colour green, the migration of birds, clouds, stones, scissors and tomatoes, maize, lemons and lots of other plants and foods. My favourite of his vegetable odes is actually the Ode to the Onion, from which I recite every time I chop one:
y al cortarte
el cuchillo en la cocina
sube la única lágrima
Nos hiciste llorar sin afligirnos
(And when we cut you/with our knifes in the kitchen/it prompts the only tear/devoid of sorrow/You made us cry without distressing us)