How to get your foot in the door in New York

2008-01-09 — Good Characters (Leave a message)

MSNBC reported that a New York City Japanese eatery, Hakata Tonton, boasts that eating collagen-rich pig’s feet is the key to youthful skin.

How do you get Americans, especially New Yorkers, to eat pig’s feet? By calling it by its exotic-sounding Japanese name, Tonsoku, and emphasizing the collagen-rich food’s (or foot’s) potential anti-aging benefits.

What’s in a name? That which we call pig’s feet—yuk!—the Japanese call Tonsoku—much more appealing!

In a Japan Times interview, Himi Okajima, chef and owner of Hakata Tonton, called Tonsoku “the next sushi.” He claims that Americans will adjust to this cuisine just as they now enjoy sushi and the once unappealing notion of raw fish. Today sushi is part of mainstream American dining and it is readily available even in supermarkets. Okajima says that promoting Tonsoku’s health and beauty benefits will open Americans to the idea of eating pig’s feet.

But the underlying question is Are Americans ready to eat pig’s feet? Would you eat them?

To tell you the truth, I grew up eating Tonsoku! In Taiwan, a birthday celebration traditionally includes a meal of noodle soup with pig’s feet. The idea is that because a pig’s feet are huge and strong enough to withhold its large body, eating pig’s feet brings health and strength. And the long noodles in the soup are associated with living a long life. The traditional birthday wish is to live a healthy and long life, so Tonsoku is the perfect birthday dish. People also have a bowl of pig’s feet noodle soup to get rid of bad luck.

Pigs Feet in Japanese

Noodle with Pig's Feet

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