Find out what you like and stick to it, you won’t care what else you’re missing

There is a restaurant in downtown Albany called Justin's that my lovely wife and I try to go to at least once a year. The menu at Justin's changes often, but there is one dish called ropa vieja that is always there and that we always order.

This is Cuban braised beef that is cooked slowly all day long, so tender that, when you dig in, all you need is a fork. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, that's how good it is.

Now I'm certain Justin's has many other good dishes on the menu, but I wouldn't know because, from the first time I've been there and every time since, the only dish I've ordered is ropa vieja and I've been totally satisfied.

One time, I was feeling especially hungry, so I ordered the macaroni and cheese appetizer. This was by far the best macaroni and cheese I've ever had, which leads me to believe that Justin's is capable of some very excellent cooking besides the ropa vieja, but no matter: I've found what I like and that's it. I don't have to think about it, I just order it, and I'm always in heaven. Good deal.

This phenomenon of finding out what you like and sticking with it resonates with me. It does manifest with food a lot I notice; I won't use any mustard other than Gulden’s nor any ketchup other than Heinz, but it's not only food related.

You may know the rock group ZZ Top from its many eighties hits and videos like "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man," but they were around a long time before they really took off. In '75, ZZ Top released an album called "Fandango!"

The first side of this album was recorded live, and it's such dynamic, explosive, and euphoric rock-and-roll that, though I've owned the record for, unbelievably, almost 40 years now, I've only played the other side maybe three or four times in all those years, and I'm a really big ZZ Top fan. The thing is, like the ropa vieja, the first side is so good that it's just about impossible for anything else to be better.

You've heard the term Catch-22, which describes an unsolvable situation, like not being able to get a job until you have experience but not being able to get experience until you get a job. The phrase comes from Joseph Heller’s classic sixties ridiculousness-of-war novel, Catch-22, and this book surely is a masterpiece, which I've thoroughly enjoyed reading. (It's especially relevant now with our military so active all over the world.)

The next book Heller wrote is called Something Happened, which is so fantastic and wonderful because it's a satire of our society (especially corporate society) that's so dead-on honest it's almost frightening. When I read Something Happened as a young man just starting out in corporate America, all the nonsense involved in bureaucracy and getting ahead finally made sense to me.

Joseph Heller wrote more books after Something Happened, but I've never read any of them because, truly, there can't be any that are better.

Am I missing out by ordering only ropa vieja at Justin's, by only listening to side one of ZZ Top's "Fandango!” and by not reading any of Joseph Heller's later works after Something Happened? I sometimes wonder, I really do, but, every time I partake of any of these, or Gulden’s mustard or Heinz ketchup, I'm so satisfied — thrilled even — that I don't even bother with thinking of anything else.

To have this kind of satisfaction with anything in this world is quite remarkable, I think. Try the cheap bland mustard or watery ketchup and then get back to me.

Let's take it one step further. When I asked my wife to marry me it was because I'd finally found someone like my mother: smart, beautiful, sharp as a tack, and not a wallflower. Sounds Oedipal but when you are around such a strong personality your whole life, I think it just grows on you (at least that's what I think happened).

Of course I look at other women — all men do, no matter what they say — but I've found my ropa vieja, my side one of "Fandango!" and my Something Happened in Charlotte so I have no desire and can't conceive of being with anyone else.

Get this — every now and then she tries to slip a cheap mustard or ketchup by me (some great coupon or something). How ironic is that!

If you find a dish or book or record or person that you really, really, really love, there is always a chance that you may be missing out on something better, but what do you care as long as you really, really, really love that dish, book, record, or person?

Chew on that (pun intended) while I head over to Justin's for some delicious ropa vieja