Official or not, it’s already mustard season

Although National Mustard Day isn’t until the first Saturday in August, July 4 is coming soon, and surely that brings mustard to mind. One of the most widely used condiments in the world, the French eat 2.2 pounds of mustard a year. A jar of Grey Poupon weighs only 8 ounces. That’s a lot of mustard.

Maurice Grey received a Royal Appointment for developing a machine that increased the speed of mustard production. He obtained financing from Auguste Poupon, another mustard manufacturer. The factory where the two men started production has become a shrine to mustard lovers in Dijon.

Grey Poupon is still produced in France for the European markets. The mustard seeds come from Canada, which is why, when Canada suffered a drought, France went into a panic over the absence of mustard.

In her semi-autobiographical 1983 novel “Heartburn,” Nora Ephron’s protagonist describes the recipe for an ideal vinaigrette: “Mix two tablespoons of Grey Poupon mustard with two tablespoons good red wine vinegar. Then, whisking constantly with a fork, slowly add six tablespoons olive oil, until the vinaigrette is thick and creamy; this makes a very strong vinaigrette that is perfect for salad greens like arugula and watercress and endive.”

In 1992, Brooklyn hip-hop duo Das EFX’s song “East Coast” had what’s probably the first Grey Poupon reference in hip-hop history. They did it with this verse:

“He’s the don, have you seen my Grey Poupon?

Bust this, we roll more spliffs than Cheech and Chong.”

French’s Mustard, the best-known brand in the U.S., has, as its makers insisted during the Iraq war, strictly nothing to do with France. French is a family name, and the mustard originated in 1904 with George J. French, who called it cream salad mustard. It gets its vivid, yellow color from the addition of turmeric.

When newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst entertained guests at San Simeon, his castle on the California coast, table settings in the Renaissance banqueting hall always included French’s Mustard, Hearst’s favorite.

When traveling, King Louis XI of France always carried his mustard pot. After tasting Dijon while serving as ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson planted mustard seeds in his gardens at Monticello.

Dijon mustard recently became contraband in Colombia. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported, “Desperate consumers are sneaking it in suitcases from abroad, hoarding it in their homes, paying outrageous prices online and lining up at clandestine locations to buy it.”

The government is trying to protect Colombians’ health. Inspired by a push by the Pan American Health Organization to reduce high rates of cardiovascular disease, Colombia’s Health Ministry imposed limits on high sodium products. Mustard must have less than 817 milligrams of sodium per 199 grams. A jar of Grey Poupon Dijon mustard has nearly three times that ratio.

You can visit the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin, and see more than 6,300 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.

Founded by Barry Levenson, former assistant attorney general of Wisconsin, it features a mustard collection he began 1986. Despondent over the Boston Red Sox losing in the 1986 World Series, he started the museum. NPR ran a feature you can hear at

Here’s some information about the museum and a good picture of the variety of mustards there.

French’s Mustard was first sold in 1904, the same year that hot dogs were introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Dan Barry’s “Ambassador Hot Dog” is a delightful piece on how hotdogs are used in the formal language of U.S. diplomacy, suggesting that, perhaps, the presentation of a hot dog may say, “On behalf of the United States of America, may we offer you this tubular delight of meat, meat byproducts, curing agents and spices?” But what it really says is: “How ya doin’? Wanna beer?”

Such is the dramatic charm of the hot dog.

And here’s a golden oldie by Russell Baker, who complains about all the mustard that’s come to live in his ice box: English mustard, French mustard, hot mustard, cold mustard, lukewarm mustard, hot-dog mustard, cold-dog mustard and designer mustard for dropping on neckties.

He who must not be re-elected prefers catsup and hamburgers.

Monday July 3, senior center closed 
Enjoy the holiday.

Age Well; Meal Pickup 
Thursday, July 6, 10-11 a.m.
Remember to register the previous week by email or by phone at 802-425-6345. Barbecue chicken, baked beans and strawberry shortcake.

Monday Munch,
July 10, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Menu to come. Check the Charlotte Senior Center website.

Men’s Breakfast
Thursday, July 13, 7-9 a.m.
Once a month, men gather for breakfast and conversation. Everyone pitches in to prepare the meal and do the cleanup. Please register by the previous Tuesday. Contact Tim McCullough. The July 13 breakfast features a talk by Stephen Hale who will describe a trip he and his wife took to the Falklands and the South Georgia Islands. They are both marine biologists.

Age Well; Meal Pickup 
Thursday, July 13, 10-11 a.m. 
Cheese tortellini with alfredo, peas and carrots, spinach, watermelon. Suggested Age Well donation is $5, but not required to receive a meal. Pay what you can, when you can.