Sunday, February 20, 2011

Food that looks like animal parts

The trick with chicken feet is to steam them long enough to tenderize the joints so they can be easily pulled apart.

It's entirely obvious that chicken feet have precious little meat. They are eaten by people for whom big portions of meat are hard to come by or in restaurants catering to people wanting something a little exotic, like traditional Cantonese tea houses serving dim sum. Fixed in various ways, the eating is done the same -- place a portion of the foot in your mouth (please, don't get cute), gnaw gently on the skin and sinewy meat underneath, pull or bite the joints until they separate, and gnaw some more. Tastes like chicken. No, actually, it tastes like whatever sauce was prepared. Yes, it's dark meat.

For whatever reason, Americans are prissy about our food. For the most part we won't eat ears, noses, feet or other parts that look too much like the real animal. No, we want to pretend that our food comes from somewhere other than its actual source.

In some cases, our delicateness is for a good reason -- I ate pig snout once, and it had the texture (and, flavor, I suspect) of a large eraser, with hair. Stir-fried sparrows are pretty disgusting, too. Fish head soup is delicious. Sweetbreads (consisting of the thymus, usually) are wonderful but not worth the expense. Never had brains (keep the jokes to yourself), but I'm gonna some day.

So, anyway, all of this is just an excuse to mention that we ate at a Chinese dim sum restaurant in Sacramento today and I ordered some chicken feet just to show off. Brother-in-law Steve ate one without gagging and was a really good sport. I ate the other two. Where they found a three-footed chicken I'll never know.

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