In addition to cooking up a storm in my kitchen, I love to dine out with my magician to sample new foods and flavor combinations. I will share some of these experiences and other tasty food stories in my Outside the Box series. To kick it off, here’s a story about our adventures in offal dining.
My magician is fearless when it comes to eating weird animal parts, and I admire his dining guts. Me…I’m much more timid. I usually turn my nose up at offal on a menu. Despite my negative attitudes, my Andy has convinced me to try a couple of daring bits from promising restaurants the past few months: pig’s foot from Barley Swine and ox tongue from Contigo. The pleasant meaty tastes and soft, smooth textures of both dishes surprised me.
They were so delectable in fact, I reconsidered my negative mantra on the “nose to tail” trend. But two weeks ago, we brunched at Shanghai for dim sum and a Chinese delicacy put my new-found offal acceptance to the test.
Our afternoon brunch started out savory with a variety of fried and steamed dumplings. Unsatisfied however, my magician hailed down the cart again and requested the chicken feet. I reasoned with myself, “He’s joking, right?” Our waitress thought so as well. With a questionable tone she asked, “You sure you want those? I don’t want you to waste money.” She wove her index finger back and forth, like we were children getting scolded. Confidently he shook his head,”We want them.” I rolled my eyes and looked away from the jiggly fried claws as she plunked them in the middle of our table.
“Oh try them, they’re interesting. Lots a little bones, and gooey meat,” he encouraged. His descriptions didn’t help. I watched intently as he picked at each toe, discarding the petite bones, working his way up the foot. He taunted me, “You call yourself a foodie, and you won’t even try them? With your no waste goal, I thought you’d be into this?”
Like a priss, I scowl back at him. “I hate you for making eat this,” I joke. I slowly take my chopsticks to a pitiful looking fried foot. It’s a slimy scrap, and keeps slipping through my clumsy utensils. I finally get a grip on it. I start with a toe. I lower my head, barely bite to the first joint, then tear it off. I start to chew, and I can already taste how repugnant it is. The congealed stringy meat has a horrible mouth feel, but the flavor makes it inedible to me. I drop the rest of the foot on my plate. I can already start to feel the repercussions from the bite start to gurgle. I turn my head to the wall, and quietly (and embarrassingly) gag.
In a serious voice, “Are you okay? Erin?” I hold it in. I turn and smile as I choke back chicken toe, “I’m fine, but Never again.” He laughed as he continued to devour his chicken feet. My stomach felt uneasy the rest of the day.
I’m not completely deterred from the nasty bits now, but in the future, I’ll stick with the pig’s foot and leave the chicken’s for Andy. I’m not sure what will be next in our offal dining adventures, but he assures me, there will be more weird things to come. Hopefully, nothing will ever be as disgusting as the chicken foot.