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December 13, 1990|CHARLES PERRY

Johnny Frog Seed

For the past several years, a man named Pierre Darre has been dumping millions of baby frogs into ponds all over France. France has a frog shortage--sale of native frogs has been outlawed since 1977 and French diners have had to be content with frogs from Eastern Europe or Turkey, or even frozen frogs from India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Darre told the Wall Street Journal he has developed a special diet that makes it possible to raise tadpoles in captivity and he hopes that because of his efforts the French frog population may soon return (he also has plans for an immense frog farm in Soviet Georgia). But evidently for the time being the answer to the old taunt, "Do you French people eat just anything you find in your back yards?" is "No." France is also suffering from a snail shortage.

Number One With a Wrinkle

California produces more than 70% of the world's prunes. The area around Yuba City alone turns out nearly three times as many prunes as all of France, the next largest prune-producing nation. Hey, let's hear it! We're No. 1!

Ski Gingerbread

The Hyatt Regency Hotel in Los Angeles has built not just a gingerbread house but a 10 foot by 20 foot gingerbread village that includes a church, town hall, barn, lake, railway and ski jump (ski jump?) as well as a house. It took four chefs six days to bake and set up the 350 pounds of gingerbread and 200 pounds of icing (not, incidentally, edible).

New Product Roundup

Good luck to these brave new products, recently introduced or test marketed: Popcorn on the cob--three cobs to a box. Taro chips--denser than potato chips so they absorb less oil in cooking; their texture has been compared to thin-sliced almond. Oat jam, which is really fruit jam with presumably healthful oat chunks in it. Coke II . . . hold on, that was actually just New Coke under a newer name that was being tried out in Spokane a couple of months back. (Pepsi responded with ads reading, "Just Say No to Coke II.")

Reciprocal Trade Is Fair Play

American fast food chains such as Carl's Jr., Arby's and Jack in the Box have been moving into Mexico as franchising has become a recognized legal concept there. Meanwhile, flavor enhancers manufactured by the Latin American firm Levapan SA are being marketed in this country; using the fermentation technology it developed, Levapan can turn out flavors described as "aged cheese," "dairy," "beef" and "grilled."

But Are They Hand-Crushable?

We now recycle more than half of all aluminum cans. For the next phase, look for more recycling of plastic soft drink bottles. Both Coke and Pepsi plan to start using recycled polyethylene terephthalate bottles (PET has been recycled before, but mostly as polyester carpeting and stuffing for patio furniture).

The Thirst Belt

California drinks 40% of the bottled water sold in this country.

Texas, New York and Florida together account for another 20%.

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