One group of scientists suggested recently that the toads were not actually exploding, at least not in the sense that the toads, who are, let’s face it, not the most finicky of eaters, which is a nice way of saying that they’d eat like pigs if they weren’t already toads, had just swallowed a large firecracker and were about to top it off with a delicious dessert of scrumptious dragonfly, complete with all those calories and trans-fats that are playing hell with your average amphibian’s cholesterol levels, when firecrackers do what firecrackers do best and blow the toad to all hell and gone. No, this gaggle of scientists contend that the culprit in this case is none other than the common European crow (Corvus corone), who, in murders mostly fowl, are plucking the livers out of the toads with their beaks and leaving the now disemboweled but still living toads to perish miserably in the water.
Now, crows are, on the whole, pretty clever birds; I don’t think there’s anyone anywhere who will want to dispute that. They may even be the smartest of all birds, although given the relatively undemanding standards of avian intelligence being the smartest of all birds is an honor akin to being the thinnest patient at a fat farm. But the scientists’ premise rests on the unproven hypothesis that even a creature facing nature red in tooth and claw armed only with a birdbrain would willingly eat a toad’s liver and not just wait for the second course. Some theories are so bizarre that they pass beyond the merely speculative and into the realm of science fiction; this, I think, is one of them.
Obviously, there are people who eat calves’ and goose liver, as well as those who eat fish eggs and frogs’ legs and fetal swine, among other things; human gastronomical ingenuity covers a broad range of species, especially in France, where many pesticides are banned and people must get rid of garden pests by the most efficient means available, which is often the frying pan, but we are not speaking of people here, we’re talking crow, and while Jeremiah Johnson didn’t mind eating the livers of Crows I have not been able to find anywhere a recipe for an entrée that includes a crow's liver or atoad’s liver for that matter, unless you include that whole eye of newt, tongue of bat Shakespearean witch's spell sort of thing, something that’ll make your boyfriend’s tongue swell up to nine times normal size for lying to you about going to the junior prom with your best friend’s cousin's slutty little sister. But he had it coming, no two ways about it, but it doesn't really count as a recipe, does it? I mean, you wouldn't spend a day over a hot oven cooking this for your family, not if you could just order a pizza with everything, except the anchovies, of course; I don't know why anyone would ruin a perfectly good pizza by putting anchovies on it, but that's just me, I guess.