Cutting the Mustard A Trip to the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum
By: John Shepler
Twenty miles west of Madison, Wisconsin, just off U. S. Highways
18 and 151, is the Mount Horeb Trollway, a street guarded by
carved trolls who keep a keen eye on the comings and goings.
Perhaps their most important treasure is an unusual museum. It
houses more than 3,010 jars of potent elixir, each a different
formulation from somewhere around the world. It's not a pharmacy,
although perhaps it should be. The cache here is mustard. Thousands
of mustards are on display in the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum
and Fancy Food Emporium. Careful! Don't bump that one. You might
just burn a hole right through the floor.
Mustard has been prized and cultivated throughout the ages.
Oh, we've gotten pretty cavalier with it lately, to be sure.
"Pardon me, do you happen to keep a jar of that pungent
condiment in your glove compartment? Oh, and would you by chance
have an extra to give away to a poor motorist in dire need?"
Perhaps they have become depressed at the thought of those
never ending payments on the Rolls Royce. No wonder they instinctively
bum mustard. It has documented healing properties, including
the ability to dispel the clouds of gloom and depression that
descend on people for no apparent reason. A thick spread of the
pungent stone ground variety or a tangy Dijon and your spirits
will be soaring again in no time.
Indeed, the herbal treatment begins well before you down a
tasty bratwurst or slab of Swiss cheese. The mere inhalation
of mustard aroma is often enough to emancipate the most stubbornly
blocked of sinuses. Long before the words biotechnology and gene
splicing entered our vocabulary, grandmothers the world over
knew that a good mustard plaster could work most any cure short
of raising the dead...well, perhaps if they weren't dead too
I remember laying delirious in fever on the family
couch while Gram slapped this mushy chemical bandage on my chest.
It burned like a little fire over my heart. The stench...well,
I was delirious, so it fit right in. A day or two later, I was
up running around the house, wearing ruts in the carpet again.
The plaster must have sucked out the evil spirits or at least
sent them packing to victimize some other undeserving youngster.
It was a miracle cure!
The chemical formulation of mustard actually increases blood
circulation in the areas where plaster dressing is applied. It
works by bringing increased blood flow to the inflamed areas
of the body, so that your natural healing processes can be more
effective. It is said that mustard flour sprinkled in your socks
can even save your toes from frostbite.
Even when you're feeling well, mustard has ongoing health
benefits. Another gram of the same mustard flour you put in your
socks has about four calories, no cholesterol, trace amounts
of vegetable fat, and is around 30% protein. It is fortified
with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and Vitamin B. No wonder
that those who consume it in regular doses have all the strength
they need to "cut the mustard."
Oh, that reminds me. The common assumption is that distilling
and concentrating mustard aroma produces the deadly mustard gas
that wreaked havoc on soldiers in World War I. Not so. The poisonous
mustard gas is made by mixing ethylene with disulfur dichloride,
neither of which is a product of mustard seed. The name was coined
by British soldiers, who thought it smelled a bit like English
mustard and coined the name "Mustard Gas."
I uncovered this bit of historical significance from a publication
of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum called "The Wurst of The
Proper Mustard." The editor and museum curator, Barry Levenson,
also reveals a little known fact from the same war files. Secret
documents recovered from German scientists show that they were
working feverishly on a new, even more frightful weapon of mass
immobilization. It was mayonnaise gas. It's victims were said
to become limp and irrepressibly boring.
Perhaps this is how The Proper Mustard achieved its reputation
for "yellow journalism at its best." Their disdain
for mayonnaise is just under the crust. Although, they do acknowledge
that an enterprising physician in Mount Horeb developed a medicinal
mayonnaise plaster that offered the same inflammation reducing
benefits as the mustard plaster, but without the almost overwhelming
smell. It proved so successful that he and his brother were forced
to relocate their bustling clinic to eastern Minnesota, where
it still thrives. Perhaps you've heard of the Mayo Clinic?
As for cutting the mustard...well, that expression is defined
by Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "to achieve
the standard of performance necessary for success." It is
a fitting tribute to an herb first cultivated by the Egyptians
3000 years ago, compared in the Bible to the kingdom of heaven,
and known as a natural curative to this day. Make your pilgrimage
soon to taste the hundreds of varieties in the coolers of the
Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb. By the way...don't feed the trolls.
Books of Interst:
Meals Made Easy with Grey Poupon Mustard from Meridith
Books. Eighty-seven flavorful recipes are highlighted, using
one of America's most favorite condiments--Grey Poupon mustard.
All recipes use seven ingredients or less and can be prepared
in less than half an hour. The cookbook features 23 full-color
finished food photos.
The Incredible Secrets of Mustard by Marie Nadine Antol
and Barry Levenson. Notice who the co-author of this book is!