So I’ve been going to the same Chinese reflexologist/massage magician for five years, and we’ve developed a kind of friendly banter despite his extremely limited English and my virtually non-existant Mandarin. We communicate sometimes via translation apps on our phones. He’s let me know that authentic Chinese food is the best thing out there, and I’ve told him I’m open to new foods.
Last night he apparently decided to begin my introduction to real Chinese food. He types something into his phone, shows it to me, and his message says that he cooked the food that day and would I eat a chicken’s foot? Huge grin on his face. And I mean HUGE. There I am, getting the most divine massage (because he’s truly gifted), and there’s nothing on my mind but the stresses of the day flowing out, leaving behind peace, calmness, and tranquility. Guilt-free pleasure at the hands (haha – see what I did there?) of a kind and funny man. I figure he’s joking, though, so I give him a cheeky grin and a thumbs-up.
The massage continues, and I realize, Whew, yes, thank goodness he was joking! Until suddenly he get up and leaves the room, returning with a small bowl and an even bigger grin than before, if that’s possible. Inside the bowl was, yep, a chicken foot. Toenails and all.
Now, look, I love this man in a “I can’t communicate with you but you know my body better than most people” way. And I’m pretty adventurous in most things. I have no issue whatsoever with the concept of eating chicken feet; it’s just doing the actual eating that gives me pause. I look into this bowl, and I look up with an expression of “WTH???”
Now, the thought behind the quizzical look on my face is actually “You’ve got to be kidding me,” but he interpreted it as “How do I do this, exactly?” So he took the foot and showed me how to eat it. Bite off a claw, eat the meat (what meat?!) and spit out the bones.
I’m weighing my options at this point. I can’t run out screaming. I’m not clothed enough to do that. Modestly covered with a towel, of course, but I don’t want to shock the other patrons. I could say no thanks, but the look of hopeful anticipation on my friend’s face was rather endearing. Native-born Chinese and other Asians in our country experience enough unkindness already from some (many) people that I didn’t want to appear to be critical of his cultural norms.
I took the third option. After first removing the toenails (sorry, my friend, I’m just not THAT adventurous), I closed my eyes, said a heartfelt prayer for (a) improved Sino-American relations; and (b) my own gastrointestinal system, and I ate that foot.
Afterward, he had the thoughtfulness to inform me via text message that chicken feet are full of collagen, which is very good for the skin. I nearly threw his phone at him. Gee, thanks. I already knew that. I have an Instant Pot and I belong to this great group, and I know all about the wonders of chicken feet and collagen. But my plan always has been to work up the courage to make chicken-foot bone broth, not to jump in feet first (see, I did it again) the way things actually went down. After this experience, though, I must say that the thought of making chicken-foot bone broth isn’t nearly as intimidating as it was…Not sure how long I’ll be picking bones out of my teeth, though…