By BOB ZIMORINO
On the 8th of October in 1975, two weeks and a day shy of my twenty second birthday, I left New York State with my friends Billy and John. There we were, three guys with two dogs and all of our belongings in a Plymouth Valiant, with a box that Billy built to fit on the roof. John and I went by Billy’s house the night before to make sure the box fit the roof. We pulled up to a four foot wide and four foot tall square box.
John looked at me and said, “If we come to a river and the bridge is out, we can put the car in the box and float across.” My feeling was that we would set out for the west, catch a headwind and end up in Boston. Billy cut the box down to two feet at our ridicule and request.
Having never been west of the Buffalo area growing up, I had no idea what the rest of the country was like. The first part the trip was across the, at the time, still vibrant industrial cities that are located along I-90 on the southern edge of the Great Lakes. It included Cleveland, Toledo, Gary and Chicago and didn’t feel all that different than Western New York With Albany, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.
Truly it wasn’t until we crossed the mighty Mississippi at LaCrosse Wisconsin and headed into Minnesota that it felt different, fewer people and more spread out. It was flatter and had fewer trees and huge farms. Where I grew up in Western New York State there were towns every three to five miles but it was not so in Minnesota and it was even sparser in South Dakota. If it wasn’t for books and dogs I might have gotten bored.
Up until this point in life, I had never really eaten at a truck stop. I noticed the menus from one to the next didn’t vary much, the food was mediocre and they were mostly pretty generic. I did learn to never eat anywhere called Mom’s because it really isn’t ever as good as my Mom’s.
The best meal on the whole trip was in Chamberlain South Dakota where we went for the Hunter’s Special at a downtown café that included bacon, two types of sausage, three eggs, a mountain of potatoes, toast, pancakes and coffee. Perfect for guys traveling, we probably wouldn’t have to eat again for a couple of hours.
By the time I paid my share for a throw out bearing that broke in the Bighorn Mountains, I was down to thirty five bucks. We went to see my older brother Nick in Jackson Hole Wyoming. I was offered a job there in a natural foods bakery. Even though I wanted to be in Montana, I was in no position to refuse employment. So my friends went off to Montana and I became a baker for Bru’s Buns and Breads on King Street.
Growing up in the age of white food, I didn’t ever really even know anything about whole wheat, or things like oatmeal, sunflower and millet bread. Really, the only darker bread that I saw growing up was rye bread until I got to Jackson Hole. The idea of developing recipes using honey and molasses instead of sugar whenever possible, glazes made from cream cheeses and honey, no preservatives allowed, fresh fruits instead of canned. This was a whole new world to me. Judging from her customer’s response to what she did Bru Ha Ha (as she was commonly known) was on to something.
This wasn’t the sad sack looking, hippie baked goods with terrible textures and flavors to match, that I would see many times over on my further travels. This was top flight stuff. Don’t get me wrong, we were referred to as “the Hippie Bakery on King Street, but Bru had developed some great food. It was my first run in with “natural foods”. Although I never really thought about it one way or the other at the time, I was witnessing the beginning of a trend that was starting to happen in various places around the country. The move away from white foods was starting to happen.
By January of 1976 I saved enough money to head up to join my friends in Montana and that is what I did.
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Bio: Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. What better place to start his weekly “Taste It” blog than his take on the evolution of food in his lifetime?