Monday, November 5, 2007

The Journey--by Larry D. Sweazy

There is a new restaurant not far from us, and it’s called The Journey. It is a buffet, a smorgasbord, featuring prime rib, seafood, and made to order sushi. I’m not usually a fan of buffets, of the all-you-can-eat adventures, because the food is normally not fresh, and touching the spoons that have been touched by countless unknown people puts me into a mini Howard Hughes panic.

But my wife had heard that the food was good, better than average, and since she doesn’t have the phobias I do, we went. The things you do for love.

The building is brand new and sits on an outlot in front of Sam’s Club on a busy, busy, street that leads to and from the interstate a mile away. High-priced real estate. The interior reaches for upscale, lots of chrome and tan leather booths, arranged for privacy and atmosphere. OK, that’s an interesting take for a buffet—because the interior wasn’t arranged like a cow trough with Muzak playing overhead.

The food is mostly Asian—any kind of Chinese dish you can think of, alongside Japanese, miso soup, goyza, and a working sushi bar, octopus to order, California rolls, you name it. A friend of mine calls sushi…bait…and refuses to stick anything raw in his mouth. Me? I’ll try just about anything once, as long as it’s not moving. Anyway, there was an American section as well, prime rib, potatoes, pizza, mac and cheese. I never made it to the prime rib, but it looked pretty good.

The food quality was—better than expected. I had nothing that was cold, and everything was fresh. I had some really good kimchi, and the asparagus beef Chinese dish was mouth-watering, and I had no complaints about the sushi. For a dining experience, buffets always lack presentation and atmosphere. The Journey is no exception, but they have tried really hard to overcome that notion, and they nearly succeed. I think it was the 5 foot chocolate fountain that really won my wife over. Fresh bananas and strawberries dipped in really chocolate topped off our evening.

The check? It was around forty-five dollars. What you might pay for a steak, appetizer, and a beer or two at Applebee’s. Would I go back? If my wife insists. I like presentation, atmosphere, and I really, really, don’t want to touch the spoons…but honestly, it really wasn’t a bad experience, and as a restaurant concept, the idea is a solid one.

So…what does The Journey have to do with writing? The metaphor is obvious. But bear with me, I’m going to stick with food for a second longer.

When I was a kid, there was a Chinese restaurant in the town I grew up in. I never ate there. I actually never ate in a Chinese restaurant until I left home and was on my own. My step-father was in the Korean War, and he had a huge prejudice against anything Asian. The only Oriental food we had in our house came out of a can, La Choy, and that was rare. My curiosity will not allow me to buy into other people’s prejudice, and that’s pretty much all I saw about that. But you can see my journey with food--from a young boy eating canned Chinese to feasting on a really good piece of eel--has been an adventurous one.

One of the most famous lines from the Tao De Ching, “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step,” pretty much covers what I’m trying to say here.

No matter where you are in your journey as a writer, you have to be willing to try new things. If you write mysteries, you shouldn’t just read mysteries. If you’re hitting a brick wall trying to sell a mystery, write a sci/fi novel or short story, test all of the genres. Try something new—don’t be afraid to venture into unknown territory no matter what your baggage is. You may just find a new horizon, a new world, or a mixture of one you already love. But above all else, continue on the journey, keep reaching into the unknown. There could be a five foot tower of chocolate waiting just over the horizon. As far as sushi is concerned, if you want to consider it bait, I can understand that...but you don't know what you're missing.

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