Moving to Montana Soon…

By BOB ZIMORINO

The ride from Yellowstone Park to Jackson Hole Wyoming is a visual stunner. You see, to the west of the highway, the Teton Mountain Range, a series of ten to almost fourteen thousand foot peaks that stand boldly against the skyline, acting as a border with neighboring Idaho. The town of Jackson sits toward the south end of the valley.

The world class ski resort twelve miles to the north of town brought in a steady stream of ski bums as well as a steady stream of wealthy folks. In my experience, the result was a town where you were one of five people living in six hundred square feet or one person living in ten thousand square feet. There was no middle class.

Ski bums equate to cheap labor so minimum wage was the standard. Still it was a fun town and I worked at Bru’s Buns and Breads where the motto was: “Get your buns in here.” I worked from three to eleven a.m. baking sweetie buns (the ultimate cinnamon roll), cookies (414 per day/34.5 dozen) and two sheet pans of brownies, butterscotch chewies or some other bar stylecookie.

As I mentioned before, we were known as a natural foods bakery, although we did use sugar and white flour, because we did not use any kind of preservatives, used honey and molasses in place of sugar whenever we could and offered breads made from non-white flour.

We were mostly referred to as the hippie bakery on King Street which prompted one of my favorite lines from one of my co-workers named Guy Vespi. We wore bandanas on our heads while working. When people would come in for the first time they would often say: “Is this the hippie bakery?” to which Guy would answer “Yes, and we’re your hippies.”

I knew a guy that went by the name Johnny D that was going to visit his brother in Missoula. In January of 1976, Bru had my last paycheck ready for me at the end of my shift. I went home from work and an hour later was sound asleep in the back of Johnny D’s van on my way to Montana.

It was a cold morning with several feet of snow on the ground when we left Jackson Hole. I woke up at the south end of the Bitterroot Valley. The landscape was brown…no snow. I thought I might have died and gone to heaven.

Billy and John were living in Hamilton with another college buddy named Matt in a 10 X 40 foot trailer. You know your friends are best friends when they take you into an already cramped space like they would be insulted if you thought about living elsewhere. Oh and did I mention that they each had a dog.

When I walked in Billy was watching the news. We didn’t have a television in Jackson so the last news cast that I had seen was about a murder, bank robbery, a rape and some kind of turf war shooting. The news from Missoula featured some cowboy named Conrad Burns talking about the price of cows.

I thought it was a joke but the joke was on me. I was now living in a place where the price of cattle did matter and the life that I knew in New York was a lot farther than the 2300 mile drive that it took to get there. There was very little cultural diversity in Western Montana at the time. The lack of the different ethnicities was most apparent in the food.

The food was standard American served up hot. If you couldn’t deep fry it, throw it on a grill. I didn’t want to work as a fry cook and at the time that was all that was available. My friend Frank called and said he had some kind of a music tour lined up and did I want to go. It seemed like a good option so I did. I figured that if I didn’t try it at 22 I never would. A few weeks after living like a pauper in Jackson Hole I was back there, staying at the Sojourner Inn, eating a steak as I was now a part of the entertainment package. Life is strange sometimes.

Up Next: Food On The Road and The Rocky Mountain Front.  Back to Bob’s “Taste It” homepage , see the entire Taste it Blog Archive, or check out his recipes.

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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 hislifetime?