My blog post about chicken feet, which last Wednesday migrated to print, gave a number of readers occasion to reflect on the Gullah-Geechee tradition of enjoying the same portion of the bird.
The trick to eating feet, according to a Gullah-speaking caller who left a message on Life Editor Teresa Taylor’s voicemail, is avoiding the toenails.
Maverick Southern Kitchens chef Frank Lee concurred in an e-mail, describing the local dish as tender-cooked chicken feet surrounded by potatoes. “Just chew ‘em up and spit out the toenails,” he writes (he also sent along this photo of stock-making at SNOB.)
Although I’ve eaten my share of chicken feet, I’ve never encountered cooked feet with untrimmed toenails. And while there’s plenty of online information about the use of chicken feet in hoodoo and voodoo – apparently there was a brief rage in New Orleans for hanging the protective symbol from rearview mirrors – there are scant references to chicken feet in Gullah cooking. I couldn’t find a single mention of how to deal with toenails when preparing them.
There are numerous online recipes for Caribbean chicken feet soup, which would presumably have some overlap with Gullah cuisine. Yet the recipes I found were very clear that the toenails should be removed.
I’m starting to get the feeling this is question the Internet can’t answer, but perhaps you can: Are you familiar with the Gullah dish? What do I need to know about toenails?