Familiarity in the first bite

    Creatures of habit, that’s a term most of us can relate to. We have our favorite meals, our favorite route to town, even our favorite colors, and most definitely, our favorite music. We don’t vary much from the “beaten path” as the colloquialism goes.

    That’s why Secret Service agents, whether American or their foreign counterparts, are careful when moving a controversial political figure. His handlers never let Winston Churchill take the same route twice, and as an added level of protection, they had at least a half-dozen “look-a-likes” of the Prime Minister riding around at the same time.

    That’s protection bordering on paranoia. Armored cars delivering and receiving vast amounts of currency do the same thing.


    I was on a familiar route early Sunday morning to do a few chores. Horses, burrows, and cats had to be fed and the water checked to ensure it hadn’t frozen with the recent cold wind. As I drove through some low-level ground blizzards, I listened to SeriousXM Channel 73, the 60s greatest hits. I listen to it often, call it an auditory habit.

    First came one of my all time favorite songs, with the ripping introductory cords of “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, then the much more reflective sounds of the softer, “My Illusive Butterly” by Bob Lind, a one-hit wonder that hit the charts in 1966.

    It occurred to me that the familiar, the comfortable, the “rut” (if you will) is what most of us prefer. That’s simply indicative of our habits, and the overwhelming desire of many to not learn or experience anything new. Some prefer the same, the familiar, the expected rather than getting a surprise. It doesn’t matter if that surprise is good or bad, it’s just wise to avoid surprises at all. At least that’s the path many follow.

    But to have the familiar, you must have at one time stepped outside your box and tried something new, so you could enjoy it and it could become comfortable.


    This tangent brought me back to a long time ago when even food was a new sensation.

    Nothing is worse than going out with someone who refuses to try anything new. They’ll go to a Chinese, Italian, or Korean restaurant and try to order chicken strips with fries. That’s great for a five-year-old, but ridiculous in an adult.

    At five, I tried pizza for the first time and hated it. It wasn’t Dominos, Pizza Hut, or Little Ceasar’s, it was nothing of the sort. My mom bought a Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit as it was marketed in the 1950s and 60s.


    It was horrible. The kit contained a packet of parsley, a can of pizza sauce, packets of yeast and flour, and a final packet of parmesan cheese. No mozzarella, mushrooms, pepperoni, olives, or sausage, just a cracker-like crust with a thin layer of tomato sauce, a sprinkling of parmesan, and a dusting of parsley.

    I didn’t try pizza again for over a decade, but the next time it was wondrous. Paisan’s Pizza was on the east end of Main Street in Riverton in the mid-1970s. I drove my 72 Nova into the lot with three friends and we hammered down the largest pizza they made for just a couple of bucks. I was hooked.

    Now every street corner seems to have a pizza place, and even steak houses sometimes have pizza on the menu. It’s become “familiar” though my first impression was bad.


    Steak is another item. As a kid, Mom cooked steak on a big electric grill. She cooked in Dad’s favorite style, well done to a crisp. The steaks would curl up on the grill before my father liked them. With copious amounts of catchup and Lawry’s season salt, you could chew them down.

    We raised cattle, and it loved hamburgers and roasts, but steak was never my first choice. Once again, this time less than a decade later, I was hooked.

    I was invited to a sorority formal by a girl I knew during my junior year at UW. The formal was at the Officer’s Club at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne. Steak was on the menu.

    With three chartered buses of girls and their dates arriving from Laramie, the kitchen staff didn’t take individual orders. All of the T-bones were cooked medium.

    The steak came alive, (my Dad accused me of eating it while it was still twitching after that) and it’s been my number-one choice ever since, though I prefer medium-rare to medium this day. It was the same cut of meat, and most likely much lesser quality than the Angus crosses we raised, but it was cooked to enjoy, and enjoy it I have.

    Laramie taught me to drink beer, among other things, and my taste in the golden brew was guided by my wallet more than my taste buds. Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, and anything cheap (except Buckhorn) were on our go-to list.

    One week, a campaign manager for Wyoming gubernatorial candidate John Ostlund of Gillette came by the student senate offices at UW and asked if we’d go door to door to campaign for John in Cheyenne. They promised a barbecue at the Remount Ranch just off Interstate 25 between Cheyenne and Laramie afterward.

    I was already a big fan of Governor Ed Herschler and half-heartedly handed out my brochures at our 50 assigned houses before heading out to the ranch.

    The Remount’s main house was impressive, very impressive for a farm boy from Pavillion. In one of the smaller rooms off an outstanding library of bound leather books, we found a small bar. One of the older campaign staff (he must have been at least 25) asked if I’d ever had a gin and tonic.

    “Nope,” I answered. “But I’m willing to learn.”

    It was my first taste of the bite of juniper berries in gin and the brisk taste of quinine in the tonic. Yes, I’m still a fan of this magic elixir brought to us by the English Navy long ago.

    When asked why I prefer it, my answer is usually, “I’m afraid of malaria, the tonic prevents that.”

    That’s a half-truth, the quinine in authentic tonic water will reduce the symptoms of malaria but it won’t cure or prevent it.

    I try not to remain in a rut when it comes to reading material, authors, or food. I tried and enjoyed a lot of different dishes in Scotland, and even acquired a taste for Scotch, something I hadn’t tried before.

    Even a few new televised series have caught my attention, shows like Yellowstone, Tulsa King, and Mayor of Kingston, but the music remains the same.

    I was hooked on Motown as a pre-teen in the late 60s and love it today. Creedence was our go-to group in the pre-game locker room so long ago on a portable 8-track player, and I’m a Fogarty fan to this day. Music is a rut I won’t leave.

    Some ruts are not meant to crawl out of but don’t dig so deep that you can’t still go forth and try something new.

    Everything is new to a child, and there is nothing new under the sun to an old person. Why not try to balance the mix?


    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?