Food for Thought

[pullquote align=”left”]I am not a particularly picky eater, nor am I particularly adventurous.[/pullquote]I remember reaching an early milestone a few months after arriving in China.  At a business dinner, I was offered, accepted, and ate fish brains.  I ate them with my chop sticks, and although it was slippery, I didn’t even drop them.  It wasn’t particularly tasty, but I cannot say that it was bad.

Much food here gets a bad rap because it just isn’t what we would ever consider eating. Yet somehow, without even trying, I am finding that my window of consideration is gradually opening.  Oh sure, I went through the usual reactions upon seeing menus with photos that looked like they were from Biology Experiments Gone Wild!  I now casually flip past the chicken feet, duck head, and bullfrog whatever dishes without even flinching.

I did try to eat some chicken feet soup one night. I figured it would be better to try it on my own with no pressure from customers or from other on-lookers.  I took a spoonful of broth and tried to avoid direct eye contact with the mostly submerged foot.

“Mmm, actually pretty good” I thought, “tastes like chicken!”

I was encouraged enough to grab my chop sticks and go in for the feet. They were slippery.  I wasn’t very good with my chop sticks yet, so it was tough to lift them totally out of broth.  I finally did, unfortunately, and found myself staring at what appeared to be the hand of a three fingered circus dwarf (see photo).

I considered asking the waitress this same question, but I knew I couldn’t pull it off in Chinese. Plus, humor is often the first casualty in a foreign country, so I just sat there looking at it.  I must admit I almost put it back in the bowl, but since having watched a few episodes of Fear Factor, I am of the opinion I can eat anything—just mind over matter.
Don’t ask me why I thought this because I have never met a circus dwarf, much less one with three fingers.  There I was, staring blankly at it, thinking, “How did this little hand get into my chicken feet soup?”

However, no one on the show ever had to eat a three fingered little hand either.  Nevertheless, I was determined.  I raised it slowly towards my mouth, but it slipped from my chop sticks and back into the murk.  I suppose I should have taken this as a sign from the universe, but I reluctantly picked it up again and looked around to make sure there wasn’t a table full of on-lookers, placing bets as to whether I could pull it off.


I found myself wondering about the details of the life of whoever used to be attached to the tiny hand.  Maybe he was the first born son of Bulgarian immigrants and was named Lopatar, Skorpid, or Kokichka (that one is fun to say out loud).  Maybe he spoke with a slight accent and parted his hair down the middle using a dab of motor oil to grease it down.  Maybe he ran away at an early age to join the circus seeking fame and fortune but, by some bizarre twist of events, had his hands end up in a bowl of chicken feet soup—in China.

In the end, I couldn’t manage much more than the tiniest of nibbles.

Thinking back on this now, I guess the fish brains were easy in comparison.  Chicken feet soup may not have been the “Greatest Show on Earth,” but it was another interesting dinner in China. 

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