From mustard musings to winter’s certain slowness

Cogitation 2.2018.128 Saturday 13 January   It’s a game character, an idiom, a biblical parable, a home remedy for chest congestion, and a condiment. It all relates to mustard.

Colonel Mustard appears in the mystery game, Clue.

As an idiom, the modern sense of the word is to succeed, as in, “He cuts the mustard.” Its negative form notes, “He can’t cut the mustard.”

The New Testament parable of the mustard seed is found in Matthew 13:31-32, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed. . . .” The short parable also appears in Mark 4:30-32, and Luke 13:18-19.

I remember one time my mother prepared a mustard plaster for my dad’s severe chest congestion. Wikipedia says it’s “A poultice of mustard seed powder spread inside a protective dressing and applied to the body to stimulate healing. It can be used to warm muscle tissue and for chronic aches and pains.” .Wonders never cease; in time past you could even wear mustard.

The kind you eat

I will only comment further on mustard as that tasty condiment found in fridges everywhere, mustard in its three main forms of yellow, brown, and oriental.

A bun can be a vehicle for the mustard lover, as in, “I’ll have a hotdog with my mustard.” The oriental mustard will be nose-clearingly sharp, as is English prepared mustard, which we spread sparingly on a cheese sandwich that is part of our lunch on walks in the Cornwall countryside. Brown mustard also kicks up the flavor.

What got me musing about mustard was a recent news story that Colman’s of Norwich in County Norfolk, England, was moving some of its operations to Burton on Trent and to Germany. Its owner since 1995, Unilever, plans to built a new plant near Norwich to continue milling the mustard seeds, 60 percent of which are grown by local farmers,

Until the Industrial Revolution, Norwich was the second largest city in England, London holding first place then as now. Now the mustard works that brought fame to Norwich is being parceled out to other places.

It’s a proud story the Colman family tells. Jeremiah Colman started his mustard and flour business in 1814 near Norwich and in 1858 his great-nephew Jeremiah James Colman established the production factory in Norwich.

While the relocation means a loss of jobs for some of the workers, it also means the uprooting of a legacy. The new milling plant will preserve some of the jobs, but loss of the whole enterprise comes as a blow to the pride of Norwich. The Colman’s Mustard Shop and Museum has been closed since last fall, with the historical artifacts in storage.

A sojourn in Norwich

In 2013 we visited Norwich as the last stop of a Celtic Spirituality Pilgrimage, led by friends Marlene and Stanley Kropf.

Our group learned about Julian of Norwich (born 1342), in a visit to the reconstructed cell where she lived in seclusion, prayed and wrote. No one knows her actual name, it is taken from St Julian’s Church of Norwich to which her cell was connected. She lived in seclusion as an anchoress (like a nun) for most of her life.

In her book, The Revelations of Divine Love, she told readers to forget her and look at Jesus. Rev. Fruewirth gave a presentation on Julian, in her cell, reconstructed in 1975.

Pilgrimage journal writer for the day, Naomi Tice, reporting on the presentation, said Julian’s three-fold concept of God was: “Know God. Know ourselves in the nature and grace in Christ. Know ourselves in relation to sin and weakness.”

Rev Fruewirth, Naomi wrote, “said Julian taught how God shows us our true self (without God’s help, we could not bear to see how weak we are); God reveals the sweet light of himself, the light of his mercy and grace. In that light we receive a love that isn’t broken by trespass.”

Further, “He described the wounds of Jesus as showing us ‘how vulnerable God is to our experience.’ The cross, rooted in the earth, reveals how compassionate Jesus is, how open to everything human.”

We had dinner that evening at All Hallows Guest House. Dinner, Naomi wrote, “was a hearty meal of pork chops cooked with apples and sides of new potatoes,  broccoli, peas and corn, roasted root veggies . . . delicious! Then the dessert of a mixed fruit cobbler with a cream sauce to top it off . . . yummy!”

Sister Pamela, our hostess, a friend, and Matthew, the household dog, joined us for evening prayers. Naomi notes that “Matthew got really excited with Stanley’s directing of the music! It was a fitting benediction.”

I’ve often repeated Julian’s words, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” That phrase has been the subject of many lectures, including Julian’s Theology of Hope in an Age of Violence, and A Love too Great to Bear? Julian’s Gauntlet to Humanity, copies of lectures–and mug–we bought in the gift shop.

More about mustard

The three main mustards: Yellow, Brown, and Oriental.

Canada is a world leader in condiment mustard seed growing and marketing. One source says the mustard production, on the three prairie provinces, accounts for 70 to 80 percent of global exports annually, with the US being the largest market, followed by Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan.

Purdue University notes that approximately 250,000 acres are devoted to the specialty crop mustard in the US, with North Dakota having the largest share of domestic production.

Another source says France buys 70 percent of the annual Canadian production. Also that French people are the largest consumers of mustard: 1 1/2 pounds per person per year.

It’s a whole new world squeezing out of the bottle, the worldwide story of mustard production’s place in the specialized condiment industry.

Prepare your own, a mild mustard recipe

My mother often made this homemade mustard. It goes well with ham.

2 eggs beaten

1 cup sugar

1 3/4 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 level Tablespoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup vinegar

1 cup water

Add all together and cook until thickened. Store in a glass jar. Enjoy!

This winter, get cozy like the Danish people

Hygge, (hoo-guh) is a Danish cultural concept that means cozy winter living. When daylight is short, the sun absent from view, life conditioned by a certain slowness, then think hot chocolate, a  book, a blanket, maybe even a hot water bottle, a fireplace if you’re so fortunate. Someone has defined the experience as a “special feeling or moment” a time of warmth alone or with friends, at home or out, a time to enjoy the present, not just be present.

There are books about hygge. Will check what our library holds. In the meantime, I’m satisfied with a lap blanket, hot chocolate and a piece of dark chocolate. I’m content to put the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley on the back burner: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” For once, Percy, let’s do Danish.

Sure, the thoughts of Shelley’s poem, Ode to the West Wind, burrow deep into death and life, dark days followed by joy and happiness, sorrow and despair giving place to a period of joy and peace, the wind as destroyer and preserver, winter as desolation and barrenness leading on to a spring of joyousness and fruitfulness.

New intellectual and spiritual life growing out of the compost of the old leaves the wind has scattered. That’s right, real, and good, Profound. Thought provoking. Nevertheless, for these present moments I’ll cozy up and welcome winter with a dose of hygge.

Winter scenes of a certain slowness

Goose or duck prints on the Elkhart River, downtown Elkhart.
From country roads in LaGrange County, Indiana.

Birthday celebration!

A birthday brunch for Doris Mast (left). at the Gathering Place in Howe, Indiana, with Marty, and me and Gerald and Mary Miller. Brother Richard spends six months in Florida, counting the temperatures there extremely more to his liking than navigating about in the north.

On the previous day, the actual day of Doris’s birthday, neighborhood women surprised her, really surprised her, with a carry-in lunch.

Hygge on!

Cook cheese goes well with a winter repast. At Oak Grove Cheese Factory in New Hamburg, Ontario, it’s only made in late fall and winter. It’s not to everybody’s taste, but with me it more than passes muster. Its consistency is unlike anything I know, always smoothing out after being scooped out and still solid enough that you can even eat it with your fingers.

Muster (hygge) on.


7 thoughts on “From mustard musings to winter’s certain slowness

  1. We called it “stink cheese” in my family of origin! It was true to its name, but we loved it! It’s great on pumpernickel or other “brown” bread. Make it a FIRM brown bread, though, or multitudes of crumbs will roll up into the cheese as you try to spread it.


  2. I was “blest” more than once with the supposedly-healing effects of mustard plaster on the chest. I remember that my mother was very concerned about leaving it on too long because it could burn tender skin. She was also a believer in Vicks Vapo-rub smeared on the chest of the cold-sufferer, then a cloth was pressed on to the sticky mess to protect it from clothes. Nothing was done to protect anybody from the eye-watering scent that announced the wearer’s presence near and far.


    1. Oh yes, the smell of mustard plasters and cook cheese are unforgettable. I’m glad for modern day alternatives to the first and that someone else manufactures the second. Best!


  3. Thank you, John, for your musings about Mustard, Norwich and Hygge. I like the Danish concept of cozy winter living. I have read that the Danes are the happiest people on Earth and hygge must be partly responsible for this!

    We often sing “Julian of Norwich” and love its positive affirmation that all will be well again. This is such a comforting message during these troubled times! When we were last in England I learned that Norwich is pronounced Norridge so that it rhymes with Porridge. Who knew?

    Even though we have grown “old” we can still cut the mustard. I have read about Canada growing the most mustard seed of any country in the world. I have also read that France produces more variety of prepared mustard than any other country. I did not know that English mustard is rather hot, very different from our mild, yellow mustard. Soon you will be sampling that in its own country of origin. We all find our unique ways of making hygge to get us through winter!


    My iPad says that a smile always increases your Face Value!



  4. I have a friend who not long moved from Port Townsend to Portland (OR). This friend grew up in Chicago area and has commented on the mustard specialty shop in “Chicago” that has hundreds of mustards for sale.

    Go figure.

    Stanley Kropf


    1. Just like hot sauce, it is found in almost infinite varieties and styles. I recall a restaurant in Chicago that had a wall lined with various kinds of pepper sauces. Seems like Chicago is right up there with mustards and hot sauces. And, of course, Lou Mitchell’s for breakfast or lunch. Top of the day to you!


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