Recently, a co-worker of mine insisted on taking me out to lunch to thank me for my contributions to a project we had toiled over for several months. Normally, I would jump at the chance for free food in exchange for just doing my job, but in this case, I was a little hesitant. I’ll explain.
First of all, this co-worker and I have very little in common. Secondly, she has the insatiable need to thank those around her for every little thing. I mean I didn’t even realize that I was being micro-managed by a perfectionist with no idea of how to accomplish the end goal for several weeks. I was too busy basking in the constant appreciation that she lavishes on all of us that do her bidding. This project was a completely, mismanaged disaster, but nobody cared because at least we all got a little recognition for our efforts. Most of these personality quirks I attribute to her Chinese heritage. For instance, she never passes through a door of anyone who could possibly be her elder or might have a title higher than her own. She never accepts praise for work and always gives credit to the “team” or her direct supervisor, even when they did nothing to affect the outcome. So as you can see, we truly had nothing in common.
However, one day we had what she seems to think of as a bonding moment. I mentioned that CT was going out of town to visit relatives for the week. Coincidentally, her teenage son was also leaving to visit relatives and the Olympics in China. Ta-da! We were instant pals…at least in her mind. Since we were now BFFs, a simple “thanks for not strangling me when I unintentionally sabotaged every aspect of this project” would not do. Now, we had to go to lunch together…and not just any lunch….a special lunch.
She proposed it to me in a hallway encounter. “Now that our project is done, I will take you to eat duck feet.” Huh? Yep, that’s what she said…over and over. My boss nearly teared up with laughter when she heard this. I mean, you can’t say "no" to someone trying to reward you for all your work, and it would definitely insult her. I tried the typical “Yeah, we’ll have to dot hat sometime” approach. But it did not work. No, we must go on Saturday (apparently, they do not serve duck feet on weekdays). So, not only did I have to go eat duck feet, but I couldn’t even do it over my lunch break. Oh, I tried the “I’m busy on Saturday” line, but it failed miserably as well. “You told me your son was out of town and your husband is busy.” (Scary, stalker behavior, right?) I even tried suggesting egg rolls on Tuesday instead. But soon I was resigned to the fact that I would have to eventually eat one of poor Daffy’s extremities in order to appease her. My only hope now was that it would not look like an actual webbed foot, that it would be deep-fried and that it would be drenched in some sort of delicious sauce…preferably chocolate.
I will say that the lunch was an experience. Once we sat down, we were immediately surrounded by waiters with silver dishes. There were bowls of strange soups, trays of pastries and shallow dishes of wontons filled with every kind of meat or vegetable imaginable. Each waiter would show us their wares and then eagerly await a nod of acceptance before putting the dish on our table. In the rare event that no one at the table was tempted by a certain dish, the waiter skulked away insulted by our obvious ignorance of fine foods.
The week prior to our highly anticipated feast, I fretted…not about duck feet or the poor mallards were out there hobbling on little crutches. No, I was much more concerned about what my co-worker and I were going to talk about during the meal. We have barely spoken a few words and I didn’t really feel like we had much in common. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. The constant attention from our servers and the table discussions regarding the finer points of preparing squid kept us busy without having to share any personal chitchat. I was relieved.
Finally, my host spotted her favorite dish from across the room. She stood up excitedly and waved her arms wildly. As the waiter made his way across the room she got more and more animated until the entire restaurant was staring our direction. Finally, he plopped down a shallow dish containing the celebrated delicacy. My culinary destiny was delicately displayed over a bed of strange closeslaw. My hostess scooped up a leg with her chopsticks and stuck the whole foot in her mouth. “Don’t eat the knees” was her ominous warning. The feet were not fried, but boiled. The webbed toes remained intact and flopped around at the end of noodley legs. I closed my eyes, put a smile on my face and literally stuck my foot in my mouth.
Honestly, they didn’t have much taste at all…kind of like pasta. OK, I’m not an expert in duck anatomy, but aren’t there supposed to be bones or at least cartilage in the metatarsals? I think I might not have minded all that much had they not actually looked like duck feet at the end of a pair of chopsticks. I could only choke down one morsel. Luckily, my co-worker was too busy sucking down the rest of the platter, she didn’t seem to notice my hesitancy. For something with no taste at all, it stuck with me a really long time. For the rest of the day a faint queasiness descended upon me and I was unable to get the dull taste of duck feet out of my mouth.
I’m not the most cultured person and I didn’t think I was really going to fit into the corporate marketing organization. But I think I am now officially a professional businesswoman. I mean how many Americans can say that they are open-minded enough to voluntarily eat duck feet all in the name of workplace etiquette?
duck, feet, duck feet, Chinese, food, culinary, meal, lunch, co-workers