Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mean Mr. Mustard

In response of sorts to the Chronicler's last post, and out of necessity since I can't post on the PONDERING PIG'S BLOG, I come here, from the beer halls and intellectual centers of the southwest to teach a lesson on the color of mustard.

Why, you ask? Easy. The
PONDERING PIG doesn't have the time and I have nothing but time. Exile will do that to you, but that's another story. Anyways, Brer Pig has been predisposed in a search for new digs and I thought I'd help him understand why mustard is yellow, a question that seems to come to the forefront of his porcine mind from time to time.

Sooooo, here's the mustard story in a nut, or seed if you perfer.

Mustard is an indigenous plant in any part of the world where things grow out of the ground. I guess, from reading, that it doesn't grow abundantly in Greenland, Iceland, Siberia, or other higher arctic regions. But, in the end, if you got dirt and water, you got mustard nearby.

Ninety percent of the world's supplies of mustard seeds are produced in Canada, just not up north too high too much. Maybe our blog friends in the upper part of North American knew that, maybe not. It's just a statistic.

Yellow mustard seed originated in Europe. The seeds are pale straw yellow colour and about 3mm in diameter. The taste is mild and "eggy" - not pungent.

In any event, people who consume yellow mustard are predominantly of Euro descent, while the rest of the world consumes more of the brown or black mustard. Dijon is yellow, but they use different vinegar when preparing it. I read where, in England, they call that "made" mustard.

Well. anyhow, most of the rest of the world went for the darker mustard seeds, for the more pungent flavors. Maybe because the meat tasted bad and maybe because they like more spice than the Norther Euro brothers. In any event, the whole damn world eats mustard, yellow on "Nathan's Hot Dogs" from Coney Island to damn hot mustard on oriental cooking of all sorts.

Me? I prefer the damn hot stuff.

Mustard has been grown and traded and cherished for many millennia. Consider the power of the little seed.

Jesus, in teaching the value of faith, used the tiny seed for analogy, telling his disciples that if they had faith he size of a mustard seed they could do marvelous and wonderful things. This thought, more than the yellow color has intrigued me for a long time.

Dig. First is the obvious size thing. This seed the size of near nothing produces huge and abundant plants. I know this for certain. When I moved to the desert southwest some 20 years ago, my first attempt at a desert garden included mustard, for the greens. When I moved from the rented house I was living in, I told the landlord that I'd planted the year before and some stuff might sprout the next season. He pretty much blew me off.

Then, the next year, there were no tennants on that property and the yard grew wild for most of the year. It grew and seeded and grew and seeded... until today, 20 years later, there is mustard growing in every yard for almost 3 blocks and uncontrollably wild in the vacant acreage behind where we lived.

The other lesson is in the power in the tiny seed. That source of new life has flavor that just don't quit. Jesus, when telling the disciples about mustard seeds was re-iterating the knowledge they already had. It was, basically, that the little seed of no consequence had a kick to it and they should culitvate that kind of faith in people that followed after. I think they did that in many over the centuries. Some like Dietrich Bonhoffer, Mother Theresa, and M.L. King come to mind because of their affect on my life personally, but I know other people know others who let that little seed spice their lives to the extreme. They are our heroes, our saints, our models for life.

The little seed is sufficient.

Comments:
The way the analogies Jesus used are still so understandable is miraculous in itself.

I have never been sure if faith is a gift from God or a response to God. I think maybe it is both. "Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief."

When we lived in Bavaria, Germany, we saw large fields of yellow-blooming plants. Someone said they were mustard. Someone else said they were canola. I never did learn for sure what the plants were, but I did find out that canola is a member of the mustard family.
 
Good commentary, Leo.
 
Preach it, brutha!!

Hey, I grew up in Alberta, surrounded by giant fields of yellow "rape" seed, as it was called then. You can't imagine the colour! Blue sky, YELLOW fields...red barns...it's like a giant primary colour wheel up here in summer.

Mustard. Dijon uses a different vinegar, and it is actually left to ferment for awhile, which helps develop the pungent flavour. MMMmmmm, pungent.....

And I love the little object lesson for your landlord. Hah! He shoulda listened.
 
Hey Leo, Finally! I've been wondering about mustard for so long, and now I know. This is the most useful post ever, and I encourage you to further consider horseradish, jalapenos, garlic, ginger root, and any other comestibles that make meals worth eating. Who knows what further revelations lurk within their gnarled little bodies. Good job!
 
I recall getting an egg roll with hot mustard at a fancy work party - it was WAY too hot for me to choke down so I discarded it into a potted plant.
 
I like the green wasabi that they serve with sushi. I bought a big can at the oriental grocers back home and mix it with rice vinegar. That will sure clear the sinuses.
 
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