2000 – I was visiting Sowen and Yeeman Ng in Hong Kong. It was the height of the .com boom and everyone had plenty of money. Sowen, an exceptionally generous man, kindly offered to host a traditional Chinese dinner. This was Sowen’s way of welcoming me to his country and reuniting me with his immediate family. He chose one of his favorite restaurants in Hong Kong and I accepted his kind offer.
It might go without saying but I was the only Gwai Lo (Ghost Person = White Person) in the restaurant that evening. Even so the feeling was somewhat surreal, over the years I have grown accustom to these types of irregular situations. On that night, I was nevertheless very excited to be eating with my close friends again – which included Sowen’s (very old) grandmother who I was particularly excited to see again.
As you can well imagine, copious quantities of food was ordered then brought to us throughout the night.
One of their proudly ordered speciality dishes was their traditional Fung Jao or ‘steamed chicken’s feet’ -Mmm, sounds tasty!!! –
Nevertheless, here I am sitting with a bowl of chicken’s feet in front of me. I am reassured by everyone around the table of their renowned delicacy is filled with scrumptiousness as I cautiously lift my chopsticks to lift a foot or two into my bowl.
As I was clearly under ‘white-man’ surveillance – I spent some time sucking the from the chicken’s feet before I began the arduous process of biting my way through the cartilage to eat the remainder of the foot (claw). Then, with an electrifying “SNAP”, my front tooth fractured clean off the gums and flew directly onto the table. I was in total shock. In disbelief, I shook my head then languidly stuck my exploring tongue through the huge gap between my teeth. “NO (I thought) IT’S really GONE” – and the white bone resting on the table was in fact my front tooth.
Of course, I turned to my friend Sowen to confide in him the awful news of my demise. Enthusiastically Sowen said, “No way, show me!!!” then upon seeing the void proceeded to laugh louder and longer than I have ever seen him – adamantly me to show his entire family – triggering everyone to start crying with laughter (literally)… they were virtually pissing themselves with laughter – laughter which did not stop all night.
It was incredibly funny.
I eventually made my way back to Dr. Jack Reilly’s dental office in Richmond, Canada. There, he inserted an expensive titanium post and affixed a new artificial tooth forever – $2,000. To this day, I can see Grandma Ng laughing her head off every time I entered the room.
To this day, when we get together we recount the same story. Silly, silly tall ghost person.
As for you, remember this the next time you are eating chicken’s feet.