We often go out to dinner with friends. There is a ritual to this habit of eating out. We simplify, make the occasion as easy and uncomplicated as is possible. Every one orders what he or she wants, usually a hamburger, or shrimp, or a wrap of some kind, and so on. What we eat doesn’t vary greatly from dinner to dinner, but we certainly don’t stick to the same item every time.
Except for Duke. The traditionalist.
Tilly’s husband is a pure, dyed-n-the-wool, color-in-the-lines, creature of habit. And he likes his habits, just fine, thank you. He makes a point to never deviate from his routine. I will explain.
Duke’s customary food order is a simple little salad with chunks of chicken on the top. The rest of us order, well, special food, things we don’t fix at home. We always know what Duke will order. No french-fries, no hamburgers, no wraps. But I have discovered another nugget of useless trivia that amuses me about Duke.
He eats after he gets home from the restaurant. And what does he eat?
If Tilly offers him some of her fries, he piously refuses, “I’m going to eat shredded wheat when I get home.” Shredded wheat, huh? He then proclaims unabashedly that he would rather have his bowl of shredded wheat than any other option. Even ice cream, Duke? “Yes, even ice cream.”
I am not meaning to be critical. Duke is hilarious, and his dry humor evokes subtle smiles from us all. Tilly calls his cereal routine, his “ritual.”
The end of the evening is when Duke’s performance begins. And Duke definitely has his habit nailed down.
Tilly selects a television program for them to watch. Duke gets his shredded wheat ready. (Duke only buys the “large biscuit” style). Consuming his shreds is the ceremony. In fact, during the ceremony, Tilly won’t be able to hear the television. She mutes the TV until the ritual is accomplished.
He lays the biscuit package on the kitchen counter, and hits the wheat bales with his fist several times before opening the package. Bam, bam! Once he has pounded the contents to shreds, he is ready for the bowl.
He opens the wrapper, dumps the pulverized cereal into the bowl, adds his milk, and wait a minute here ... I once asked Duke if he used a lot of milk in his cereal, and staring at me with an air of superiority, he surreptitiously whispered that he “doesn’t use milk.” What? Water then? I don’t think so, Duke. You are pulling my leg.
Lest you think I am making this up? No. It’s all true.
The snack is ready. Let the show begin! But don’t turn the sound on yet. He digs in.
Chomp, chomp. Crunch, crunch. Spoon clinks against sides of bowl; clang, clang, clang. Slurp, slurp. Slurp. (Tilly’s description)
By then Tilly is twisting a strand of her hair, biting her tongue, plugging her ears. She busies herself with other chores until the nightly snack is eaten.
She eventually un-mutes the TV. The bowl is empty, his spoon is idle, the wheat biscuits are consumed. He has finished off his favorite snack. The ritual is over. And now they can settle in to watch television.
Judi Tabler lives in Pawnee County and is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com or juditabler@awomansview.