Lainey, For Real: Chicken Feet, Fat and Food-Shaming

Can you really judge what’s on another person’s plate, wonders Elaine Lui, if you only ever eat chicken breast?

Chicken Feet
(Photo: Getty Images)

I like to eat the fat bits on my steak and roast beef. I like to eat it off other people’s plates too. The fat is the softest, most flavourful part. So I’ve never understood why people push it off to the side. Is it that you don’t want to admit you like the fat? Or do you really not like the taste of fat? How can you not like butter? If you don’t like butter, I don’t trust you.

Have I just food-shamed you? Good. Because now you know what it feels like.

I get food-shamed all the time. Food shaming, to me, is not a health issue. The people who side-eye me for finishing off the fat from the roast aren’t concerned about my heart. It’s a question of class. But what’s the difference between fatty roast beef bits and the pork belly that food snobs brag about? Both are fat. But pork belly has been declared a “trend,” so it’s considered high-end, while my roast beef fat is, evidently, the mall knock-off. You know what they have at the mall? The food court. There is nothing better, to me at least, than a meal at the food court. A couple of months ago, before seeing a movie with a friend, I suggested we meet at the food court for dinner. She was, however, coming with an acquaintance from work. The acquaintance was not impressed. “Um, like Manchu Wok? Gross” was the exact text she sent back. Excuse me. I’m Chinese. I know my Chinese food. And there is nothing wrong with Manchu Wok. In fact, its kung pao chicken, when value and taste are factored in, could stand up to any kung pao chicken at any high-end Chinese restaurant in the world. The key here is that they cut generous chunks of chicken thigh instead of using chicken breast.

OK, fine, maybe I’m a hypocrite. Because I’ll admit that I food-shame people who prefer chicken breast over chicken thigh all the time. It’s just that the thigh is so obviously better than the breast. The breast is dry. It has no personality. If you ordered it when we were out, I would assume you have no personality. I mean, besides socialites and Victoria Beckham, who orders chicken breast when they go out to dinner? Lately the most common food-shaming move is related to sustainability. At our wedding in 2001, my husband and I served Chilean sea bass. That’s right. I suck. At the time, I didn’t know that it was often illegally caught, using hooks that killed lots of other non–sea bass in the process. Ignorance is not an excuse—I get it. So during a recent discussion about wedding menus at a charity event, I guess I deserved to be lectured for 20 minutes by the Chilean Sea Bass Crusader seated next to me. I sat there and I took it from him. I took it as he spouted fact after statistic after percentage about what’s happening to the fish in the oceans. I sat there as he introduced me as the “Chilean Sea Bass Murderer” to every person who approached our table. When his entrée arrived, though, I noticed he’d ordered the chicken breast. Of course he ordered the chicken breast.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have asked him if he ever ate chicken feet. I would have wondered aloud whether or not the people who lecture others about making sustainable food choices also regularly eat nose to tail, the way the Chinese do. Sure, deliberately making “sustainable food choices” isn’t a consciously honourable decision my culture has made in service of the environment. But for centuries we’ve typically used almost every part of the animal—chicken feet, fish heads, pig lungs—so as not to waste anything. Doesn’t that count for a few redemption points? Are you even allowed to bitch about sustainable food choices if you only ever eat chicken breast? Which is why I suggest sucking on a chicken toe first. Shove it right into your mouth. Savour the cartilage. Flip the skin back and forth between your tongue and the roof of your mouth and suck up all the chili sauce. Then, after you’ve spit out the bone, you can cast the first stone.

Elaine Lui is the founder of Lainey Gossip and the author of Listen to the Squawking Chicken.

Related:
Lainey, For Real: Notes on a Diet          
Lainey, For Real: Our Selfies, Ourselves?
Lainey talks to 
Canadian Business about turning her passion into a career

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