People who know me will know that I’m a fan of mustard; to paraphrase the great Yorkshire philosopher Walt Heckingbottom, “If chutney is my grandma, then mustard is my mam”; I know exactly what he meant. Mustard is the icing on the cake, the flourish at the end of a symphony, the twist in the last chapter of a mystery and the sight of the moon appearing through the clouds as you walk down Snape Hill to Low Valley. If the government ever needs a Mustard Tsar, they need only look for the man with the big blob of yellow on the side of his plate.
Or three blobs, actually, as I found the other day to my mustard-based excitement. I was having some sausages and mash. I’d cooked the sausages until they were just at the edge of being burnt and the mash was as creamy as shaving foam. I got my two jars of mustard out of the pantry: the strong English mustard, glowing with promise, and the wholegrain mustard that gleamed with the kind of sophistication that only mustard can gleam with.
I put the sausage and the mash on the plate but really they were only decoration; I was in a mustard mood. I spooned a couple of hills of mustard on to the side of the plate. Then I spooned some more.
And then my grandson Thomas turned up with his mum, and they’d been to a farm shop and brought me a present: mustard. And this was an unusual mustard: it was fig mustard and I’d never had fig mustard before. I opened the jar and took a deep sniff. Heaven. A mixture of aromas that made my eyes water and my mouth stretch into a grin.
I looked at my plate. It looked like an abstract painting. The sausage. The mash. The two blobs of mustard. And now, like a child who suddenly goes off Corn Flakes and only wants Rice Krispies, I didn’t want my English or my Wholegrain mustard any more. I wanted my fig mustard. No. I wanted all three.
To the horror of my wife and daughter and grandson, I blobbed a big blob of the new fig mustard onto the white plate. I felt like King Henry VIII gorging on one too many quail. Now my plate looked like a colour chart for gloss paint. The sausage and the mash seemed insignificant at the side of the all-conquering mustard. The sausages looked like token sausages; the mash was a little apologetic. The mustard shone like three suns in a bright sky.
I dipped one end of a sausage into the new mustard. I dipped another end of the sausage into the English mustard. I somehow rolled the middle of the sausage in the wholegrain mustard. Now there was more mustard than sausage. I raised the sausage to my eager mouth. Oh, I wish a photographer could have been there to capture my expression. It was a combination of joy, glee, delight, happiness and what scientists call “mustard anticipation”.
And the taste was exquisite. The three mustards battled on my tongue and totally defeated the sausage. Wonderful! Then I did it again. Mustard really is the food of the gods and grey-haired granddads from Darfield.