Sunday, November 22, 2009

Oh No! Feet!!

Yesterday I asked Miguel to pick up a chicken at the market. A whole chicken already cut in pieces so I could make pollo adobo a la Sue.

After preparing the adobo marinade, I dumped the bag of chicken pieces into the sink. There, right on top, was a chicken foot.

When I first started buying chicken at the market, it was hard standing there looking at all those dead birds with their blank eyes staring into nowhere. Somehow that makes them a little too vulnerable, and I feel bad for perpetuating the exploitation of the chicken because I am buying it in order to eat it.

I wish I could be vegetarian. Miguel suffers the same pangs of regret, so I wouldn't be surprised if one day we just bite the bullet and stop eating animals. If we gradually reduce our consumption, then hopefully we'll get there.

In the meantime, when I buy the chicken, I always tell the butcher I don't want the head or the feet. Sometimes I forget because as I'm standing there waiting for him to cut up the chicken, I get distracted by little scuffles between dogs, or other people milling around. I'll turn back just in time to see the butcher clipping the toenails, with which I'll say "No pies, por favor" (pie means foot - pronounced "pee-eh"). The butcher tosses the feet into a container on the floor, or into the mouth of a waiting stray dog (which is why they scuffle, sometimes).

So I purchase headless and footless chickens, and I thought Miguel knew that. But yesterday the foot was there right on top. Gross - I don't even want to touch it, it feels weird. So I used a piece of the plastic bag to lift the foot over to the other side of the sink.

Then I went fishing amongst the chicken pieces for the other foot, and as I was doing that, I was saying out loud, "Please don't let there be a head in here". The feet are bad enough, but the head? Unnerving...

I found the other foot, and laid them both in the other side of the sink while I skinned and washed the other chicken pieces. The good pieces will be used to make pollo adobo, the other pieces will be used to make soup.

The ironic thing is...chicken soup here is often made using the feet of the chicken. I know that, and I try not to think about it, because I love the chicken soup here, especially the soup that Miguel's daughter makes, or the soup from La Familia Tomasa.

Miguel came home just as I was cleaning up. I asked him if he wanted to take the feet to his daughter so she could make soup. He just laughed and said to leave them here. Apparently it is offensive to offer someone the feet of the chicken without offering them the good parts too. It is like giving someone your leftovers instead of the nice meal you originally prepared; it is perceived as discrimination. How would I know that?

So I put the feet on a plate and walked across the street and threw them far into the bushes. Hopefully the stray animal that comes across them will think they've come upon a feast. And hopefully my footless soup will be tasty anyway.

And I never did find the head. Miguel did good.


Life's a Beach! said...

Eeeeeeeks! I have a hard enough time handling chicken fat and skin, much less feet! I bet the pollo adobo a la Sue is fantastic!
I bought the ingredients yesterday for pollo enchiladas verde a la Sue! I think that will be dinner tonight!

Nancy said...

The feet really do help to make a nice rich broth. I pay premium price up here in Gingolandia for chicken feet and have a bag of them in the freezer. When I'm making soup or broth I dig out several and add them to the other parts. They do look gross but I just toss them after the broth is done.

Jackie said...

No, I couldn't handle chicken feet.If there was a head I would surely trhow up.

jeanie said...

LMAO I am constantly amazed at the delicate balance of politeness in the Mexican culture. Offering someone the feet is a faux pas but it's OK for the butcher to give them to you (all Hell would break loose in Canada). I LOVE that the butcher clips the toenails first. Who knew?

Sue said...

Beck - I remember teaching my daughter how to prepare a turkey and she was totally grossed out by having to touch a dead body. Just something you have to get used to, I guess.

Nancy - I know you are right, but it's one of those mental things with me, like not eating fish. As long as I don't know or think about it, I'm fine. I think there is something they have to do to the feet first though, before they can be used in cooking - maybe they have to be skinned or blanched?

Jackie - you'll want to make sure to tell them to leave out the head then!

Jeanie - Well, he gave me the feet because I was also buying the good parts, so it was not offensive. But yeah - giving the feet a pedicure seems odd - there must be a reason though.

IslaZina said...

Yes, the pedicure comes before the butchers knows whether you want the feet or not! I take them ad toss them in the freezer along with the necks. When I have enough, I used a couple legs and thighs to make a soup. They do add body to the broth and I have made Chinese chicken feet with soy sauce and anise. Used to pay top dollar at dim sum in Cleveland!

Bennie said...

Oh I'd have a hard time if I got a chicken with a head and feet too. I'm fine with footless chicken soup.