Step Out of Your Comfort Zone… and not just by writing in a different genre….

Lamb testicle and deep fried beef genitalia

Lamb testicle and deep fried beef genitalia

I attended a Gastronaut dinner the other night. What is a Gastronaut you might ask? Well, it’s a person that likes to try unique foods that normally you wouldn’t eat on a day to day basis.

I would like nothing more than to travel the continents and eat street food. I firmly believe that a people’s culture is learned and experienced through their food. What is weird and uncomfortable to us Americans is very well the norm in other parts of the world. Cow’s feet, Goat’s and Lamb’s heads, brains, sweetbreads, land snails, tripe, fried genitals (the pictures in this post are from that particular dinner where innards and genitalia were the focus of the meal) – these are all things that are eaten regularly in other cultures. When people are poor, it’s not like you have a great Kobi steak lying around or a stack of gluten-free pancakes – you eat what you have – if it’s a lamb, you eat the entire thing. And I’m talking about the ENTIRE thing.

The other night the dinner was at a fantastic greek restaurant called Loukoumi in Astoria and besides great salads, and dips and octopus/calamari and other foods, they made us roasted baby lamb’s head. I posted a photo of it on Facebook to shock everyone, and I got the response I was expecting. I actually didn’t post it on this page because it was so disturbing to some folks they actually hid the photo. Out of respect for my readers who’d like to “keep their lunches intact” I decided to show some other photos instead. But we must remember, to 82 million Greeks, this is not a crazy thing to eat – it’s peasant food. Since I am not going to be able to go to Greece or Nigeria or other places soon, these special dinners are the closest thing to me finding authenticity in a people and to learn about them. I just don’t want to go through life scared and afraid just because my American senses have programmed me to be leery of certain things. That’s not to say I loved this dish. The tongue had a weird texture, the eyeball was chewy, and the entire head was fatty, but I tried it. And, the Greek kid across from me said his mother makes it every single lent.

Cold Platter, Beef Tendon, Chicken Heart, Beef Tripe, Tofu Skin, Quick Pickle, Headcheese

Cold Platter, Beef Tendon, Chicken Heart, Beef Tripe, Tofu Skin, Quick Pickle, Headcheese

I want to open myself to different things and new experiences and I believe everything I do will help me grow and become a better writer. If I can’t physically travel to exotic locales, why not try it right here in the United States where there is a melting pot of amazing restaurants and cultures?

So I implore everyone – be adventurous, get out of your comfort zone. I’m not saying go jump out of a plane (but, by all means do if you really want to), but go find an authentic new restaurant nearby. Go eat octopus, try a chicken foot, eat a grasshopper, go eat Peruvian food, Greek food, Turkish Food – go LEARN something new. I guarantee you – everything you do and try will make you a stronger person and hopefully our experiences will make us stronger writers.

What do YOU do to get out of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear.

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17 thoughts on “Step Out of Your Comfort Zone… and not just by writing in a different genre….

  1. Trying exotic foods is a great way to step outside your comfort zone, Elyse because it gives you just a tiny glimpse (and a taste,) of another culture. I live in a really small area, so we don’t have a lot of ethnic restaurants, but whenever I come across one, I always want to try it. Great idea, and thanks for sharing.

    • I checked it out and commented – though you do it in a much safer and tamer way than me! LOL – I see you’ll read a book that scares you or a different genre – I guess I’m adventurous – I WANT to be scared and shocked and really get out of my comfort zone – I’d jump out of a plane if I weren’t so scared – definitely on my bucket list. 🙂

  2. I’ve always an adventurous (with limits). My mantra over food has been “I’ll try anything once” for many years… Until recently. As a result of various health situations and recoveries from a number of surgeries… I’m still adventurous, to be sure. I will dive in and try just about anything, but what I’ve found is I’m not as resilient as I’ve been in the past. I tire easily, I get queasy, where I use to be able to do it all… Sushi tongue? Sure, why note. Live snail? Okay… Now – I’m a bit more selective because you know- if you go to one of those restaurants, they all have some sort of bread, and sometimes that is just fine for me. LOL!!! Great way to experience different cultures though! I may have to try it!

    • I hear you about the health situations – for me, I know this place has been scouted out by the Gastronaut staff and so the food won’t make us sick. I’m sure I’d be leery eating raw beef from a stand in a foreign country – but in NY? Nah… bring it on!

  3. I love to ‘test’ the comfort zone boundaries. For me, as a kid, back in the early 50s, it was Chinese food. Once I tried it, I loved it and have been hooked on most Oriental foods since. When in the Navy I went to a genuine luau (dating a girl and what sailor won’t do anything for a girl?) and was eating extremely unfamiliar food. Out of stupidity, I asked what I was eating – was told – and suddenly didn’t like it anymore. I learned, if you’re enjoying it, don’t ask until you’re VERY comfortable with it. To be honest, I don’t remember what it was I stopped eating. I’m not sure I could do a dinner like you’ve experienced, but I’d probably give it a try, just to push my limits. As to writing, I have been learning to get outside my comfort zone. My first foray was from SF and fantasy into horror, adventure, then light romance. I finally threw caution to the wind – Christian. My agent is currently hawking my latest endeavor, a Christian literary piece… so far away from fantasy and science fiction. Strangely, I enjoyed the experience.

    • You know, I like to know what it is I’m eating. I think the NOT knowing is scarier for me. There hasn’t been something I haven’t tried yet at one of these dinners, but I won’t lie, looking at the tongue on that lamb’s head and seeing the teeth and the “taste buds” on the tongue and how bumpy it was, well, it was challenging, but I did it. 🙂

    • I once had cricket french toast – add enough butter to anything and you can’t tell the difference – it was like crunchy chips – though I was picking spindly legs out of my teeth for hours.

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