Similarly, it is much more efficient to find an expert on a hobby, culture, time period, or whatever foreign thing you are writing about than to try to become an expert yourself, from your computer chair. A great example from my fifth chapter is a scene that contains horseback riding. I am not a horse girl, so I simply drew upon my imagination to write the following:
WRONG! Did you find the error? I never would have seen it if I hadn't given this scene to a friend who rides horses. Thorismud is standing beside the princess' horse, and he seems to look at her "feet"--both feet at once. In this whole scene, I had the princess riding sidesaddle--in a world based on high medieval Europe.
He followed her gaze to the small, pale pink blossom and frowned at it, as if perplexed by its appearance so out of time, in the air that still pricked with frost. A gentle breeze passed by them, carrying Thorismud’s faint scent of sweat and leather to Rosemary. She closed her eyes and saw a mad vision of a mare she had once seen rolling in a patch of clover, kicking ecstatically at the sky. She opened her eyes and watched him reach up and pluck the little flower from the vine. He held it in his hand with reverence and lifted it up to the princess without looking at her.
She took it from his rough, blackened palm and held it close to her face to see the tiny petals with their sunburst of yellow stamens in the center. She fingered the long thorns on the stem and sensed Thorismud watching her breathlessly at the periphery of his vision, though he kept his face lowered, seeming to gaze at her feet. She pressed her fingertip against the barb and gasped at the drop of blood like a bright ruby that bubbled out of her soft, pale skin.
The princess was also riding "sidesaddle" bareback. My friend pointed out that riding "sidesaddle" without a saddle is nearly impossible. This led me to discover that sidesaddles were not to be invented for hundreds of years, and that medieval women rode astride horses just like men--even while wearing gowns. This fact delighted me, as it actually allows me to include more interesting details. In another scene, I had made up a special horseback riding gown that ladies wore in the next kingdom. Knowing that women rode horses like men encouraged me to come up with a more exotic riding costume.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes detail corrections lead to a richer scene or story. And to avoid wasting time researching every little thing to death, just run a scene or idea (such as a menu, outfit, or foreign greeting) past someone who knows more about the topic than you do. Any mistakes or oddities will jump right out at them.
Have you ever used the occasion to correct an error in your story as a path to a better scene, chapter, or even overall plot?