Chicken paws cause this shopper to take pause

By SCOTT SAALMAN
Guest Columnist

Let’s talk chicken feet.

Or, as Walmart labeled them in the poultry section: Chicken Paws: Price Per LB $1.98.

Seriously. Chicken paws. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. I hope to never see it again.

Photo courtesy Scott Saalman

The package caught my eye as I was casually carting by a hideous display of what at first appeared to be deformed human hands, in full shrink wrapped glory, causing me to stop dead in my tracks and my blood to drain from my face, like an unsuspecting bit-part character stumbling onto the aftermath of a grisly murder on “Dexter.”

To paraphrase a comment from my Facebook friend Jon Webb, “Seeing the paws gave me pause.”

Chicken Paws. Chicken feet. There’s a subtle difference, according to Google search, but any distinction between the two really doesn’t matter, for, no matter the terminology, I have a very weak stomach in the presence of freakish food stuff.

I have always wondered, “Is there a more unsettling sight than a chunk of head cheese on a slab or pickled pigs’ feet floating around in vile juice looking like some medically deformed jarred specimen in a mad doctor’s secret back room, or salad bar sardines being sucked and slurped into someone’s mouth?” No, I thought. Nothing was worse than any of those things. But, as I write today, my answer has changed: Yes, there is something more unsettling to see: Chicken Paws right there in full public view on the Walmart rack. They should at least hide them behind a black curtain.

My grandma’s favorite chicken part was the neck. She also drank a lot of beer. I think you’d have to drink a lot of alcohol to stomach chicken neck. The same for those purported brain sandwiches I hear about.

In China, a waitress once placed a rooster head on my plate. It was a macabre moment, leaving me no choice but to lighten the mood for the Americans around me by putting the head at the end of a chopstick and making it talk like Foghorn Leghorn. “Boy. I say Boy.” The waitress didn’t get it. She frowned. Suddenly I was the ugly American.

I also saw live eels in plastic tubs in a Chinese grocery store. I know, I know. It’s a culture thing. I respect that. But I won’t embrace the eel—never, ever will I embrace the eel!

And now—chicken paws have walked into my life!

Talk about fowl gone afoul.

“Hatched, Raised and Harvested in the USA,” the label claimed on this plastic-encased horror.

Make America Gag Again.

I never thought about chickens even having feet till then. I guess I never bothered to look all the way down at a chicken to see how it stayed balanced in the barnyard. There are few things tastier than a fried chicken leg though. Fortunately, they are severed before served.

I shared a photo of the chicken paw package on Facebook. Response was immediate, becoming one of my most responded-to posts to date, resulting in relatable reactions I had hoped for—and I quote: “This will haunt my dreams” . . . “YUCK” . . . “Where is the yuck emoticon?” . . . “I’m freaking out” . . . “Gross” . . . “G.R.O.S.S.” . . . “Looks like chicken fingers” . . .

And there was my personal favorite, from Dottie, who summed it up more accurately than anyone: “They look like alien hands, not enough fingers and too many knuckles . . .”

Think edible E.T. paws.

There were a multitude of vomiting and green-faced emoticons to substantiate my sentiment on this matter, too.

Of course, the chicken feet post did result in some comments from the usual Facebook whackos.

“They make great bone broth,” Daniel (a chef) commented.

“Never heard them called ‘Paws.’ I like to use feet in my bone broth,” Phil (another chef) commented.

“Bone broth magic,” commented Shannon.

“Supposed to be critical to good chicken soup. No kidding,” pecked Kate.

“Here is a shocker: chicken feet soup is the bomb!” commented Julia.

Reflecting on the total cost ($2.00) of the package of paws, my fiancée Brynne commented, “Only $2?! That’s a bargain!” I hope she was joking. How well do I really know her? We should probably talk.

My Facebook friend Lisa shared a recipe for “Pressure Cooker Chicken Feet Broth for Cats & Dogs (and people too!)” Nothing spells cuisine like a recipe that appeals to cats and dogs — and to people as an afterthought. Sounds good, Lisa, but I don’t own a pressure cooker. Darn the bad luck. Alpo, anyone?

My Thai buddy, Somsak, shared a recipe for braised chicken feet and shiitake mushrooms. “It is delicious,” he commented from a half a day away. His passion for the dish was evident — how he shared the word shiitake without laughing uncontrollably is beyond me (I’m still wiping away the tears). Not wanting to make an international incident out of my chicken paw post, I responded diplomatically, “Thanks, Somsak. Save some for me in Thailand next time.” Note to self: never return to Thailand.

Chicken paws. Chicken feet. Whatever the right terminology is and whether you can eat the horrid things or not really doesn’t matter at this point. It’s all clucked up.

Scott’s newest collection of humor columns, “Column Writing Is Not Pretty,” can be purchased for $10 at Finishing Touches or Mad Batter Bakery. Or contact him at scottsaalman@gmail.com; he delivers.




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