"Someday, I hope that Alan will eat chicken feet," my husband Zhenyang exclaimed. Zhenyang, his family, and I were sitting at the dinner table in Shanghai, China. We were wrapping up our one month visit to see his family before we returned to our home in Ohio where my husband works as a web developer and I toil as a graduate student.
Our son Alan, just shy of four months, sat in his bouncy chair enthusiastically gnawing his own hand.
My husband picked up a chicken foot with his chopsticks and began to savor one of his favorite dishes. I sheepishly picked at the bok choy on the table, hoping not to draw attention to my lack of chicken feet consumption.
I remember the first time Zhenyang tried to prepare chicken feet for me. We were sitting in our small apartment in Ohio. He had traveled a fair distance to purchase these delicacies. Chicken feet are not sold at the local grocer.
"I gave the chicken feet a manicure, just for you."
Indeed, he had. Painstakingly, my husband had cut each individual chicken nail from each individual chicken claw. He proceeded to put the chicken feet in a soup filled with mushrooms in an attempt to appeal to my American palate. Born and raised in Florida, I have never attempted to eat such a meal. Before I met my husband I had never even left the country, adding to my ignorance of international cuisine.
Alas, my husband's attempts to Westernize the chicken feet simply didn't work.There was something too carnal,too slimy,and too real about eating the taut flesh wrapped around each chicken foot.
I am too accustomed to purchasing my chicken wrapped in freezer paper in a shapeless blob from the deli counter. Call it a form of denial,I suppose.
However, I could tell that chicken feet meant something more to my husband than just another meal put on the table at the end of a busy day. Chicken feet to my husband meant family. They signified traditions. Their bony claws encapsulated love. Zhenyang wanted Alan to be a part of this culture, despite living thousands of miles away.
Sometimes I wonder if I will be able to help my husband pass on Chinese values to our child.
Will my Western influence mean that our child does not have enough exposure to Chinese culture? Will traditions and customs become diluted? Will seeing friends with Lunchables in their lunch boxes instead of traditional Chinese fair mean that our son will lose appreciation for his heritage?
Sometimes, I think about these questions and have some sadness in my heart. These questions probably weigh more in the heart of my husband than anyone else. However, all we can do is take one day at a time. Growing up in a multicultural family, Alan will have the opportunity to learn customs, traditions, and languages that a child with parents exclusively from either China or America would not be as exposed to as.
I know that our son will come to appreciate both the Eastern and the Western portions of his heritage.
Time will tell how these influences will play out in our future lives.