don’t try the chicken feet

I was having dim sum with a couple of new friends in Chinatown in NYC. And literally the second thing that  arrives at the table is a big ol’ bowl of chicken feet.

“You don’t have to try them,” Kenny told me. “But I grew up on them in China, and I find them delicious.”

I’m sitting there, and 43 years of experience with eating food is telling me not to swallow a chicken foot. But these were Christian brothers I was sitting with. NYU isn’t exactly swarming with Christians, and we had purposefully found each other to meet up for lunch.

So maybe, I figured, since God had brought us together, and also God had created chicken feet, that this was all part of His perfect plan – to spend an afternoon eating the feet of His creatures.

“Yeah, I’ll try a chicken foot.”

Kenny was already nibbling on one.

“You gotta be careful. There’s not much meat. It’s mostly a bunch of knuckles.” He picked a knuckle out of his teeth and dropped it on the plate. He paused to examine the red chicken foot pinched between his chopsticks. “I’m not sure why I like them, now that I think of it.”

So I asked God – who can do all things – to make chicken feet taste delicious. Then I picked up a chicken foot with my chopsticks and proceeded to take the single smallest bite I have ever taken in my life.  

Bam. Chicken knuckle. Right in my mouth. I imagined Jesus next to me, shrugging, going What are you gonna do? They’re chicken feet. 

“You got a knuckle, didn’t you?” Kenny said, waving his chicken foot at my chicken foot.

“Yeah, I got a knuckle.” I scraped the knuckle out of my mouth. “I don’t think I like chicken feet.”

“A lot of non-Chinese people don’t.”

Years ago, I probably would have forced that chicken foot down. I would have lied about liking it. I felt obligated, all my life, to not only try new foods, but to appreciate them. Because that’s what people do, I thought – they try new things and they appreciate them.

When the truth, friends, is that I have no interest in food. I have eaten the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day for four years straight. When I go out to a restaurant, I order a cheeseburger, because that’s what I like to eat.

“Get some variety in your life, Conor!” people say. “You always order cheeseburgers! Try the snapper!”

You try the snapper. I don’t want the snapper. Get the snapper, you want the snapper so badly.

Recently, though, I had a breakthrough. I told Liz I had always felt obligated to order things in restaurants that I didn’t want for the sole purpose of appearing a little less weird to the world. She told me, quite simply, that I never had to worry about that stuff with her.

And somehow that felt like freedom. After 43 years I thought it was time to be okay with who I am. So here are…

The Top Five Things that I Felt Weird About My Entire Life that I Have Come to Accept:

1.) Being an Introvert.

I am not quiet. I am not shy. I enjoy public speaking. I just don’t really love being around people. Liz knows I can only do one social thing, max, on a weekend. And even then I have to go into an empty room and stare at a wall when it’s over. I daydream about being snowed into a remote cabin. (Liz does not share this daydream.)

2.) I have the Bladder of a Sea Monkey.

This is not an incontinence issue – it is purely a mental one. My kids are almost 9 and 7 and they can go on four hour road trips without stopping. Me, I will use the restroom before getting into the car and then have to turn around to use the bathroom again before I buckle my seatbelt. Before I get into bed I probably run to the bathroom five times, afraid that I’ll need to go in the middle of the night. It’s a psychological need that I cannot explain, this desire to be close to a bathroom. It’s like I’m the child of divorced toilets.

3.) I am Terrified that I Will Toss my Wallet off a Bridge.

If I’m walking across the Golden Gate bridge, Liz could be pointing out the spectacular natural beauty of our surroundings and all I’m doing is gripping my wallet like a junkie praying I don’t whip it out of my pocket and hurl it over the side of the bridge. I’m walking faster and sweating, just praying I make it across. I haven’t actually done it yet, but let’s just say I try not to walk over bridges. 

4.) I Defend the Honor of Inanimate Objects.

You could point out a neon green upside down house with purple gargoyles hanging off it and say “That’s a bit odd” and I will immediately find ten ways why that house is not only not weird, but why I would actually love to live in it.  I have defended the smell of the chemical plants driving down the Jersey Turnpike. I defended a rusted bicycle frame chained to a street sign in New York City. I have defended an empty lot in Bridgeport, CT. It’s like you’re insulting my kids.

5.) I Can’t Have Sticky Hands.

Nobody loves sticky hands, I know. But I cannot have sticky hands. I could be starving in the desert and you come along and offer me a tangerine, and I would ask you, with a final, hoarse, parched gasp, if you wouldn’t mind peeling it and putting it into my mouth so I didn’t have to get my hands sticky. If my kids are sucking on lollipops in the back seat of our car I will drive faster to try to get away from them. I will touch something sticky if, and only if, I am already standing underneath a waterfall when you hand it to me. 

I’m sure there are more than those five.

The point is that there are real, legitimate things that I have to work on. I want to be a better dad and a better husband and a better friend and a better caretaker of people. I want people to think that I am different because my faith calls me to be radically loving and generous in a way that stands out – and lemme tell you, I’m not even close on that front.

I will persist in these things because they are worthy of effort and change and sacrifice. But that also means being okay with the fact that I won’t be sampling new cuisine or walking across bridges or eating clementines. God gave me free will, and I’m going to use it. Mostly to not eat chicken feet.

By | 2018-01-22T10:29:17-05:00 January 18th, 2018|8 Comments


  1. Amy Freed January 18, 2018 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Love the “child of divorced toilets metaphor.” And driving faster to get away from sticky kids in the back seat. Thanks for posting Conor. And hard pass on chicken feet.

    • Conor January 18, 2018 at 10:49 am - Reply

      I know I’m in good shape when I’m on Team Freed.

  2. Tracy January 18, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    1. Don’t touch my pen at work
    2. The only acceptable pen to have at work is the Pentel RSVP fine point black ink.
    3.There is only one way to load the dishwasher.
    4. I can handle all other sorts of pandemonium in the universe as long as 1,2,and 3 are followed.
    5. I need an hour alone at the end of the day to process. #introverts

    • Conor January 18, 2018 at 5:17 pm - Reply

      #introverts. Amen.

  3. Frank January 18, 2018 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    Let’s be fair, cheeseburgers… and dal bhat. Let’s give credit where credit is due. You are who you are because of dal bhat.

    • Conor January 18, 2018 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      I’ll buy that.

  4. Liz January 19, 2018 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Child of divorced toilets -Lol.

    • Conor January 19, 2018 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Broken toilet homes!

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