I ate chicken feet today.
Well, technically, I ate part of a chicken FOOT, then politely shoved the rest to the side of the plate.
I went to a Sichuan (we call it Sezhuan, Seczhuan, Sechzuan and Szerbiak back home) restaurant with the ladies from HR who have been helping me. They were extremely gracious and even allowed me to say if there was anything I didn't want. I said no.
I specifically requested chicken as part of the meal, to make sure there was something safe. Actually, almost everything was great. There was spicy shredded chicken, stir fried greens, some kind of bean/noodle dish, tofu soup, fried potatoes, and a sweet fruity juice-like drink. I grabbed some of everything, including little pieces of what looked like popcorn chicken. I picked one up and put it in my mouth.
Oh sweet mother of mercy. Keep in mind, if you've ever looked at chicken feet, there isn't much meat there. It's mostly gristle and bone, and that's EXACTLY what the texture was like. (Please note: This is NOT an indictment of Chinese cuisine, which I have found delightful and much more varied and subtle than it is in the States. We probably eat many things that they would find upsetting. This just happens to be one that goes the other way.)
I tried eating around the bones, but, to quote some famous woman I can't think of now, there wasn't much THERE there. Like a total buffoon, I ended up picking most of it out of my mouth in probably the classiest Asiatic dining room move since President Bush Sr. lost his lunch on the Japanese prime minister.
The Chief Learning Officer, who has done so much for me, suggested I could swallow the bones.
"Really?" I said brightly, as if I intended to.
So I ditched the rest of them, feeling quite foolish. This is probably one of those cultural things I just won't be able to work around.
I also tried some fish which somehow actually seemed to have EXTRA bones in it. I was trying to do all this with chopsticks, and it was just a dismal failure. I have never had dexterous teeth - I have a hard time eating around cherry pits, for crying out loud. By the time I was done I had eaten about three bites of fish, and my plate looked like I had made a big pile of food in the center, then done my best impersonation of the pie-eating scene in 'Stand By Me.'
Everyone was very nice and pretended not to notice what a rube I was. But I can tell you one thing: I am going to be very selective from now on. Just mound after mound of century eggs.