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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: The Joys of Exploring New Foods and Places

In a chat earlier this evening in one of our WhatsApp groups, one of our YeahThatsKosher authors (Nati) was talking about the unique flavors of NYC’s Nikkei kosher restaurant (Sen Sakana) and how many in our community would skip over the weird dishes on the menu and stick to the familiar.

This struck me as a mistake many of us make… whether it’s avoiding new foods or new destinations (or any number of opportunities we may have to experience new things in life).

This dish from Sen Sakana looks weird, but is absolutely fantastic!

Exploring new foods and places can be a transformative experience that enriches our lives in ways we might not anticipate. I think people should go to restaurants that offer unique dishes and go out of their way to try those that are most foreign to them. This simple act of stepping out of your culinary comfort zone can open up a world of flavors and cultures that you might have never imagined. It’s not just about the food; it’s about the adventure and the stories that come with it.

One specific story I love to tell is from the “Halachic Dinner” back in 2015, when I had the opportunity to eat the only kosher insect (locust) that was sourced and prepared for a kosher audience. (If you must know, it was fried and partially covered in chipotle chocolate. I thought it tasted like gribenes.)

Kosher chocolate chipotle fried locusts

Trying the unknown can be a daunting prospect, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Get yourself uncomfortable a bit and go out of your box. This discomfort is a small price to pay for the vast array of experiences and memories that you can gain. When you push your boundaries, you grow. You learn more about the world, and, more importantly, you learn more about yourself. You discover preferences and tastes you never knew you had, and this can change your outlook on life in subtle but meaningful ways.

Many people shy away from new experiences because they fear the unfamiliar. I know not everyone will heed this advice, but trust me, exploring new foods, places, and things is at the very least a learning experience. Whether it’s tasting a dish with an ingredient you’ve never heard of or navigating a new city’s public transport system, every new encounter teaches you something valuable. It might teach you patience, resilience, or even how to appreciate the familiar comforts of home more deeply.

Trying a new experience: riding Icelanic horses in the dead of winter

The beauty of trying new things is that it has great upside with little risk. The worst that can happen is that you don’t enjoy a meal or find a place not to your liking. But even then, you’ve gained something invaluable: knowledge and experience. The best-case scenario, however, is much more exciting. You might find a new favorite dish or discover a place that feels like a second home. You might meet new people, make new friends, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Many of you, like me, love visiting or living in Israel. But I also love exploring other parts of the world. I’ve been to Iceland twice, and wouldn’t blink an eye to go back again. I learned that Arizona’s dry air, amazing hikes, and pretty good kosher restaurants (in Phoenix/Scottsdale) is a place I want to go back to more often. I learned that I secretly love road trips & hiking after we were forced to change our style of traveling after the covid lockdowns. (I highly recommend downloading the free AllTrails app to find great hikes for your skill level near your or near where you’re traveling).

I took this pic at the Grand Canyon in January 2024

Exploring new foods and places also broadens your cultural horizons. It allows you to experience life from different perspectives and gain a deeper understanding of the world around you. Food, in particular, is a gateway to culture. Each dish tells a story about the people who created it, their history, and their way of life. By tasting different cuisines, you are essentially embarking on a culinary journey through time and space. Despite being kosher observant, we can taste so many different cuisines today beyond our own native Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Israeli flavors.

Moreover, trying new things can have a profound impact on your personal growth. It encourages open-mindedness and adaptability, traits that are increasingly valuable in our rapidly changing world. It teaches you to embrace change rather than fear it, and to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles to be avoided.

Swimming in a cenote near Tulum, Mexico

The thrill of discovery can bring a sense of excitement and joy into your life, not all that different than discovering a new insight from today’s daf yomi. There’s a unique satisfaction that comes from stepping out of your routine and trying something new. It’s like a mini adventure that adds a spark to your everyday life. Whether it’s finding a hidden gem of a restaurant or stumbling upon a beautiful park in a new city, these moments of discovery make life more vibrant and fulfilling.

So, the next time you’re faced with the choice between the familiar and the unknown, I encourage you to choose the latter. Go to that restaurant with the unfamiliar menu. Take that trip to a place you’ve never been. Try that activity you’ve always been curious about but never had the courage to try.

You never know what amazing experiences and opportunities await you just outside your comfort zone.

About the author

Dani Klein

Dani Klein founded YeahThatsKosher in 2008 as a global kosher restaurant & travel resource for the Jewish community.

He is passionate about traveling the world, good kosher food / restaurants, social media & the web, technology, hiking, strategy games, and spending time with his friends & family.