Oh my God, I thought to myself. Is that what I think it is?
When the soup ladle was pulled free and clear from the pot, I saw that it was, indeed, a chicken foot.
I looked down at my empty bowl, thankfully absent of non-standard poultry parts, and wondered if I would be next. You don't have to be raised on a farm to know that all but the most grizzled chickens have two feet.
I was in a high-stakes game of chance with six members of my new girlfriend's family – all natives of Hungary and completely lacking in the normal fear response that the situation clearly called for. This was Hungarian Roulette.
I had never known a Hungarian family before. I had never seen the way they lived or played. I had certainly never seen them eat.
I knew this would happen. I'd had paranoid fantasies of myself staring helplessly across the table at a throng of monoglots, stunned in silence wondering why I was here among them and what was stopping me from diving into the revered family recipe of pig blood pancakes and sheep testicles as voraciously as they themselves had.
Another bowl was passed and filled. I looked around at the excited faces, all filled with anticipation of the only part of a chicken that spends more time covered in shit than its ass.
Two more plates were passed and not a hen paw in sight.
I thought about faking a seizure, but decided against it. I couldn't bear the stories they would tell one day about my girlfriend's American future ex-boyfriend who refused the best they had to offer. I had to give this relationship a chance. If I was to be served a foot, then a foot I would eat.
Only one bowl remained before mine. It was passed to the middle and the soup was doled out. One ladle-full. Two. (Oh please oh please God oh please) Three.
And at long last, there it was.
The second chicken's foot was placed in the bowl of the person next to me. When my bowl was filled, it was fowl-foot free. I swallowed my sigh of relief as this international incident was averted. Of course, on the off chance that there were multiple chickens in there, I made sure to serve myself when it was time for seconds.
I would have eaten the foot for her. In fact, months later, I did. It wasn't as repulsive as I had imagined, but it was bony and generally not worth the trouble. At least now I have a story to tell at every family gathering.
What have you done for love?