Mustard sprouts provide an easy, delicious way to introduce mustard's spicy flavor into our diets. They can be grown on any kitchen counter, and can be used whenever more common sprouts-alfalfa or onion, for example-are called for. They are particularly good on chicken sandwiches and on simple cream cheese sandwiches, where they add a bright spark of flavor. Soak two or three tablespoons of white or brown mustard seeds in water overnight. Wet a tea towel thoroughly with water and wring it out so that it is still fairly wet but not dripping. Fold it and place it in an oblong glass baking dish (9" x 6" is an idea size) Drain the seeds and spread them over the surface of the towel, between the folds. Keep the seeds in a warm (but not hot) place for 3-4 days, spraying them regularly with enough water to keep them moist. By the fourth, or possibly the fifth, day they should be about 1-1/2" inches long and ready to harvest. Refrigerate them and use them within two or three days.
Jeremiah Colman was brilliant at promoting his mustard. The company's packaging is striking, with Colman's in red letters on a bright yellow background, the signature bull's head alongside. In addition to striking graphics, effective advertising campaigns captured the public's attention, the most dramatic of which was the creation of The Mustard Club.
In May of 1922, noted British author Dorothy L. Sayers accepted a position as copywriter with one of London's largest advertising agencies, Benson's. Among the projects she worked on was a large campaign commissioned by Colman's; The Mustard Club was the focus of the agency's efforts. The club was full of Sayer's signature talent not only for pun, parody, and rampant good humor, but for intelligence and historical resonance, as well. The far-reaching campaign included a mock law suit against a restaurant for not making their mustard fresh daily and a Prospectus of the Mustard Club crediting Aesculapius, the god of medicine, with being its original founder. The club's officers in particular bear the mark of the creator of everybody's favorite detective, the charming Lord Peter Wimsey. Among the fictional participants were Master Mustard; Lord Bacon of Cookham; the Baron de Beef, president of the club, and Miss Di Gester, its secretary. A short film produced at the time immortalizes the characters during the trial of a man accused of attempting to eat a ham sandwich without mustard. The crucial evidence is given by the sandwich itself; the offender is found guilty and condemned to soak in a mustard bath, to which he is promptly escorted.
The club published the Recipe Book of the Mustard Club, also penned by Dorothy Sayers, who was herself an accomplished cook. Although the club began as a marketing gimmick and without membership solicitation, hundreds of mustard enthusiasts wrote to request membership and were accommodated. A card game was developed, as were several club songs, and a monthly newsletter. The Mustard Club became quite fashionable and was the feature of many news items and cartoons of its time. The campaign was considered one of Benson's great successes, and it certainly did the trick, focusing attention and glamour on a humble condiment. It lasted for seven years, and vanished during the difficult years of the Great Depression.
The phrase "cut the mustard" is a common contemporary expression, indicating that someone is up to the task or the standards at hand. It entered the English language in the early 1900's from Philadelphia, where it was said that "groups . . . have special vested interests. and that's not gonna cut the mustard." It is suggested that mustard refers to "the genuine thing" and may be based on mustard as hot, keen, and sharp, all of which can also mean excellent. source: The Dictionary of American Slang, 1986.
Copyright 1996 by Michele Anna Jordan, author of the Good Cook's Book of Mustard. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Mustard Photograph by Jim Hicklin
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
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Modified August 2007
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