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
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.