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Smothered in mustard

Happy Easter, all. Wasn’t that a wonderful, wacky, wild week of white and wet wonderment? I’m getting carried away, but so what. Why not waste words? I’m celebrating.

We needed it so badly. I carried an umbrella as a fashion statement, loaded groceries in a downpour, gazed out the window with coffee like in a life insurance commercial, and built a crackling fire — among the last of the season.

As grand as it all was, please allow a change of focus — to mustard. I did not get the idea from the fine A la Carte article covering mustard in Wednesday’s paper, though I longed for a corn dog afterward. In fact, I instantly thought, OK, now what? They stole my condiment.

No recipes follow, though that Brussels sprouts with mustard sauce is on my list. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the article very much, especially the large and tantalizing picture of a juicy hot dog awash in liquid gold.

That’s how I eat mine. You can barely see a dog, and maybe a dab of relish, but that’s all. Oh, perhaps a light sprinkling of chopped onions for good measure, but that’s where the bun folds. I don’t always eat hot dogs, but when I do, mustard reigns.

Mustard fields have bedazzled our valley lately with yellow vibrancy and overwhelmed my senses in a promising vibe sort of way. It’s hard to avoid swerving off the road while driving Foothill when that springtime pop of floral sunshine meets my view. There’s a lot of it out there. I’d like to wander around in it, I think.

Photo by Peggy Dover It’s hard to avoid swerving off the road while driving Foothill Road when that springtime pop of floral sunshine meets my view.

Every year I lament that the fields will fall under the tractor, as did the gorgeous white-blossomed pear trees along that stretch. But sure enough, once again the flowers welcomed me like a favorite aunt bearing hugs and lemon meringue pie. I just had to turn around this time.

The sun was in mid-set through promising clouds — the ones that ushered in this recent, longed-for, glorious gush of moisture. I snapped a few pictures and avoided getting creamed by a car or rampaging elk herd. One takes one’s life in one’s hands day-dreaming along that road.

I began thinking fondly of mustards of all creeds, which led me to a bit of research and the French’s yellow mustard camp. Surprisingly, “America’s sunshine mustard” gets most of their number one grade seed from the Prairie Provinces in Canada. Over 10 million mustard seeds go into one bottle of French’s mustard. They must go through a lot of seed counters. Wonder if they hire CPAs for that. It’s tax season. Pardon my angst.

The mustard makers add vinegar, turmeric (gives it the sunny disposition), and other spices. A mustard miller grinds the seeds between two “stones” until it’s smooth and creamy, pretty much the same way and same recipe for over 100 years. In fact, the time-honored, yet humble hot dog and French’s yellow mustard (made by the French brothers) were both introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Each was an instant success.

Eventually French’s built a 450,000-square-foot factory in Springfield, Missouri, where they churn out over 100,000 gallons of mustard every day — 300 bottles a minute. Hey, I got this right from the mustard miller’s mouth. A nerd-enrapturing three-minute video produced by “Unwrapped” can be viewed on YouTube.

I found my pantry tin of yellow mustard seeds and began imagining how many of these tiny buggers it takes for one lone jar of prepared mustard. I counted 432, not nearly enough. I have a new appreciation for my favorite yellow food. I once used them for pickling. Now I’m thinking about scattering them in my neighbors’ yards.

Enjoy this time of fresh life. “Faith like a grain of mustard can move mountains, and faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotdog.com, I mean hotmail.com.