13 Spicy Facts About Mustard

KVLADIMIRV/iStock via Getty Images
KVLADIMIRV/iStock via Getty Images

Mustard may have truly come alive for Americans in the early 20th century when it was introduced to the hot dog, but its history is even longer and spicier than you might have guessed. In honor of National Mustard Day (August 3), here are some facts about the popular condiment.

1. First things first: mustard is a plant; prepared mustard is a condiment.

Although it’s rarely necessary to specify “prepared” mustard when referring to the spicy spread, it only seems fair to acknowledge mustard’s true roots.

2. Broccoli is mustard's not-so-distant cousin.

As members of Brassica or Sinapis genera, mustard plants are close relatives to a surprising variety of common vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, and cabbage.

3. Mustard goes way, way back.

By some accounts, mustard was the first condiment humans ever put on their food. Egyptian pharaohs stocked their tombs with mustard seeds to accompany them into the afterlife, but the Romans were the first to grind the spicy seeds into a spreadable paste and mix them with a flavorful liquid—usually, wine or vinegar. French monks, who mixed the ground seeds with "must," or unfermented wine, inspired the word “mustard,” which stems from the Latin mustum ardens (roughly meaning “burning wine.”)

4. The Ancient Greeks and Romans used mustard as more than just a condiment.

Pythagoras endorsed a poultice of mustard seeds as a cure for scorpion stings. Hippocrates praised mustard paste as a miracle remedy capable of soothing pains and aches; and ancient Roman physicians used it to ease toothaches. They weren’t alone. Over the years, mustard has been used for appetite stimulation, sinus clearing, and frostbite prevention. It’s now touted as a weight loss supplement, asthma suppressant, hair growth stimulant, immunity booster, cholesterol regulator, dermatitis treatment, and even as an effective method of warding off gastrointestinal cancer, so ask your doctor if mustard is right for you.

5. Most of today’s Dijon mustard isn’t from Dijon.

When the Romans conquered the Gauls, they brought mustard seeds with them, and these seeds took root in the fertile soil of France’s Burgundy region. By the thirteenth century, Dijon had emerged as a hub of mustard production, which laid the foundation for the invention of the region’s signature “Dijon mustard” in 1856. A simple ingredient swap added a new tang to old mustard recipes when Jean Naigeon thought to use verjuice, the acidic juice of unripe grapes, instead of the traditional vinegar—a change so easy to replicate that the recipe couldn’t be contained to a single city. Today, Dijon mustard can be made anywhere in the world.

6. King Louis XI didn’t travel without mustard.

The French monarch considered the condiment so essential to his culinary experiences that he kept a pot with him at all times, so as not to be disappointed if he were to be served a meal in a household that wasn’t fully stocked.

7. Mustard has many, many faces.

Dijon isn’t the only place with a favorite local mustard. Other common regional mustard varieties include American (the familiar yellow squeeze-bottle stuff), English, so-called “French mustard” (actually invented in England as a less-spicy alternative to English mustard), Bavarian sweet mustard, Italian fruit mustards, Midwestern beer mustard, Creole mustard, and so many wildly different German mustards that the phrase “German mustard” is essentially meaningless.

8. The famous Grey Poupon ad turned the mustard market on its head.

The upscale mustard brand’s iconic 1984 Rolls-Royce TV commercial sparked a boom in sales for Grey Poupon, which had been lagging far behind the reigning American favorite, French’s “Classic Yellow” mustard. By marketing the more expensive spread as one of “the finer things in life” that even an average shopper could afford, Grey Poupon broke buyers’ previously unquestioned devotion to a plainer sort of condiment. Moreover, many test audiences only needed one taste of Grey Poupon to immediately switch their allegiance.

9. It’s said to be America’s silver-medal spice.

Peppercorns are the most used spice in the United States; mustard comes in second.

10. Two countries (Canada and Nepal) are responsible for most of the world’s mustard.

In addition to their main ingredient, most mustards have one thing in common: the ingredients' country of origin. Together, Canada and Nepal's crops account for more than half of global mustard production. Thanks, guys!

11. “Mustard yellow” is a lie!

The particular shade of yellow to which mustard lends its name owes its hue not to mustard seeds themselves, but to the vibrantly colored turmeric added for an extra kick of spice and brightness. Crushed mustard seeds alone vary from a pale yellow to a dark brown depending on their variety, but “turmeric yellow” doesn’t sound quite as good.

12. Middleton, Wisconsin is for mustard lovers.

Can any foodstuff call itself beloved if there’s not a museum established in its honor? Southern Wisconsin is proud to call itself the home of the National Mustard Museum, which boasts “more than 5566 jars, bottles, and tubes from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.”

13. That jar of mustard in the back of the fridge is probably fine.

Despite its creamy texture, mustard is fundamentally nothing more than a blend of spices and acidic liquid, none of which have the potential to truly spoil. Refrigeration is advised to keep mustard’s spicy kick from dissipating too quickly, but it isn’t strictly necessary. The mustard’s flavor will decline over time, but unless rogue food particles have gotten into the container, there’s nothing to worry about—except mediocre mustard, of course.

General Mills Is Recalling More Than 600,000 Pounds of Gold Medal Flour Over E. Coli Risk

jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images
jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images

The FDA recently shared news of a 2019 product recall that could impact home bakers. As CNN reports, General Mills is voluntarily recalling 600,000 pounds of its Gold Medal Unbleached All-Purpose Flour due to a possible E. coli contamination.

The decision to pull the flour from shelves was made after a routine test of the 5-pound bags. According to a company statement, "the potential presence of E. coli O26" was found in the sample, and even though no illnesses have been connected to Gold Medal flour, General Mills is recalling it to be safe.

Escherichia coli O26 is a dangerous strain of the E. coli bacterium that's often spread through commercially processed foods. Symptoms include abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Most patients recover within a week, but in people with vulnerable immune systems like young children and seniors, the complications can be deadly.

To avoid the potentially contaminated batch, look for Gold Medal flour bags with a "better if used by" date of September 6, 2020 and the package UPC 016000 196100. All other products sold under the Gold Medal label are safe to consume.

Whether or not the flour in your pantry is affected, the recall is a good reminder that consuming raw flour can be just as harmful as eating raw eggs. So when you're baking cookies, resist having a taste until after they come out of the oven—or indulge in one of the many edible cookie dough products on the market instead.

[h/t CNN]

The World's Spiciest Chip Is Sold Only One to a Customer

Paqui
Paqui

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to get pepper-sprayed directly in your mouth, Paqui Chips has something you can’t afford to miss. Following the success of their Carolina Reaper Madness One Chip Challenges back in 2016 and 2017, Food & Wine reports that the company has re-released the sadistic snack. Continuing their part-marketing gimmick, part-public safety effort, the Reaper chip won’t be sold in bags. You just get one chip.

That’s because Paqui dusts its chips with the Carolina Reaper Pepper, considered the world’s hottest, and most (attempted) consumers of the chip report being unable to finish even one. To drive home the point of how hot this chip is—it’s really, extremely, punishingly hot—the chip is sold in a tiny coffin-shaped box

Peppers like the Carolina Reaper are loaded with capsaicin, a compound that triggers messages of heat and pain and fiery consumption; your body can respond by vomiting or having shortness of breath. While eating the chip is not the same as consuming the bare, whole pepper, it’s still going to be a very uncomfortable experience. For a profanity-filled example, you can check out this video:

The chip will be sold only on Paqui’s website for $6.99 per chip or $59.90 for a 10-pack. The company also encourages pepper aficionados to upload photos or video of their attempts to finish the chip. If it becomes too much, try eating yogurt, honey, or milk to dampen the effects.

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