Sira-sira: Must be mustard-A A +A
By Ober Khok
Friday, August 3, 2012
YOU carefully examine your hamburger and hope to see some sunshine in it. It must be mustard.
If you’re like me, you can’t have enough of the yellow ocher stuff, which reminds you of sunshine. You put mustard in your burger, pizza, hot dogs, ham sandwich and even your spaghetti. Well, that may be an overshot but that’s how serious a mustard-lover you are.
My nephew Pannon asked where the spicy ocher glop comes from.
“It comes from a bottle,” my Uncle Gustav told him before I could open my mouth and that’s because it was full of burger dressed with mustard.
“Of course it does, lolo, but I mean the yellow thing—where did it start?” Pannon persisted.
“It started as a plant,” I said before my uncle could tease him some more.
“You mean it’s the same plant that the Bible talks about; the little seed that becomes a great tree where birds and bees and butterflies like to rest?”
“The mustard that we place in our bread comes from the seeds of a small plant, a bush with yellow flowers.”
It’s a timely question because there is a Mustard Day held every first Saturday of August in the United States. This year it falls on a Saturday. I heard about it from a friend who is now in Wisconsin taking a long vacation with his relatives there. He told me about it because it’s a food-related event.
“The Mustard Museum sponsors the event,” he told me through a tweet. What I think I like about the event is that free hot dogs are given out with as much mustard as you like.
If we make a big bang with flowers through the Panagbenga Festival (Baguio) and the Flores de Mayo (throughout the Philippines), mustard aficionados beat the drums for this slightly acidic condiment.
The most familiar is prepared mustard, which comes in squeeze bottles and jars. It is dark ocher in color and has a pronounced sour and sap-like note. Dijon mustard, which is lighter in color, has a more pleasant taste and goes perfectly well with steaks as dip, as many French diners like to do.
I tried it with the steak made by my Tita Blitte and it beat ketchup or soy sauce as dip. Of course, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay might give me a lecture about messing with perfectly turned out steaks, but then I’m a mustard lover. Dissect me, and you will find mustard in my veins, my brains, my heart, my soul.
The host of Kitchen Nightmares, of course, didn’t tell me how to use mustard or tip me off about the best mustard in the world and I wouldn’t know either. I do know there are now many varieties, such as honey mustard, creamy mustard and spicy mustard, but I still like my Dijon or just the old prepared mustard.
At home, I add a bit of it to mayonnaise when I make egg salad. For a sweet accent, I add raisins. It gives the bread spread a new dimension in flavor.
Mustard makes sausages smile and perks up ham. It makes roast beef more macho, and pot roast more rounded out in flavor. As a marinade, it harmonizes with wine vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and olive oil to bring out the best in chicken and beef kebabs.
But mustard has its detractors, sad to say.
I can understand why my friend Illustracio doesn’t like mustard. It has an unusual flavor that is neither out-and-out sour and out-and-out hot. The best mustard taste should not have a metallic note and should not burn the tongue. However, most people want their condiment to be easy to identify, and not as something in-between.
No matter how hard I try to convince my friend about the wondrous mustard, he turns his nose up on the condiment.
Like sashimi, you either like it or hate it, but you can acquire a taste for it if you train your tongue. It takes time to get used to this curious companion to food.
If I am as keen as mustard that only means I am enthusiastic about the golden condiment. You would be, too, if you try it bit by bit and then you can celebrate mustard with me every fourth of August.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 04, 2012.