I dreamt a chicken’s foot came out of my nose. An entire foot. I walked back to the dining table where colleagues from my former job were in after dinner discussion. I opened my hand and showed them the foot and they nodded but weren’t too concerned.
The odd thing is I know why I had such a bizarre dream. It was a combination of the article I read this week about a 44-year-old British man who sneezed out a toy suction cup he had stuck up his nose as kid. I found that immensely amusing considering he didn’t remember and his mother recounted her panic at the time. After examination and x-rays, the doctors had told her they couldn’t see anything and 44 years later, it pops out of his nose. Not that I put a chicken foot up my nose as a kid but if a maroon crayon or glob of Play Dough suddenly appeared in my tissue, I wouldn’t be too shocked. Overnight, my nose was stuffy from the change of seasons so that could have been part of why I dreamt what I did it but I think it had more to do with – you guessed it – television than anything else. Before bed, I had watched a PBS documentary on Cecilia Chiang, a restaurateur who had left communist China and became wildly successful in San Francisco with her Mandarin Restaurant. To be honest, I didn’t think I watched a great deal of it – my eyes had closed and I feel half asleep listening to the long, blissful segments filmed while dishes were prepared. There was no voice over that I remember just the soothing sounds of chopping, sizzling, boiling, knocking pans, and people shuffling in the background of a busy kitchen.
At two points, however, I was wide awake. In English, Chiang had discussed how important food was to her large family while growing up. It was a wonderful memory filled with love and caring. At another moment, she discussed in her native language going back to China during the fanatical Mao Tse-tung era. At the time, President Nixon was attempting to build cultural bridges into China. She had been selected to be part of diplomatic group which she had leveraged to visit her family. She was shocked to see her father and siblings penniless and bound by despair. I have met others who left the East during the ’60’s and early ’70’s. One person I knew was a child of teachers who were forced to leave during the Cultural Revolution. Another was Vietnamese, whose father was a translator during the Vietnam War. When the U.S. evacuated they had only a few hours to find their mother at the open public market and gather everyone onto one of the last helicopters out of Saigon. My friend’s father lived with the creed of never to own more than one could fit into a suitcase. Recently, I worked with a Chinese auditor who was educated in the U.S. and worked tirelessly to be certain of a position with a firm that would sponsor her. Others I have met who did not leave Hong Kong wanted to just have more than one child.
People can visit China today and obviously the country has changed with time. I recall hearing that when you visit, the natives will want you to eat a chicken foot so that they can shock you and have a little fun since chicken feet are eaten regularly. Thus, I think, the source of my dream.
Funny how the world works. Moments of meals, of family, of safety are changed by government direction. So much of what is left after violence erupts, power is fought over, and land is occupied is only poverty and desperation. I suppose if I was leaving northern Africa I would want to go to Italy, too, hoping to have a spectacular meal with as many of my family as I could. Full belly, beating heart, healthy soul.
Penzy’s spices had a slogan recently – “Heal the World, Cook Dinner Tonight”. Maybe that is truly the peace that is needed. Just a good, safe meal with a possible chicken foot but only if it isn’t out of one’s nose.