Words: Shamim de Brún
Mustard deserves your god damn respect. It is a superior condiment and completely outclasses ketchup. Yeah, I said what I said.
The hill I die on is that mustard is superior to ketchup. I’m not saying ketchup is terrible per se. But it is outclassed by mustard. Ketchup is easy, lazy, and banal—the Big Bang Theory of condiments. What is wrong with Ireland that we have enthusiastically embraced the sacred sriracha but can’t get behind mustard?
Mustard is a perfect expression of European culture. It embodies the French ideal of individualism, German efficiency, Greek reinvention, and Irish fortitude. It is the go-to condiment of choice for those who forge their path through life. Mustard is for those who view eating as an adventure to embark on daily. Who view food options as vast and varied as the explorations of Lewis and Clark, two lads who actually brought mustard on their expedition to munch and treat infection.
Ketchup wouldn’t have cut the mustard. Why? Because it only does one thing. Makes stuff sweeter. Mustard, however, can be made to do loads of shit. You want your ham and cheese toasty to smack you across the face with tangy deliciousness? Add mustard. Do you want to dress your salad up enough to make its wilted leaves appealing? Add mustard. You want your burger or hot dog to knee you in the balls and then blow your brains out? Add mustard. Maybe your dry barbecued Bratwurst needs a little support. Add mustard and watch that come around.
Instead of overwhelming meats with sugar, mustard brings out the flavours of the meat and makes it taste more like itself. Mustard is also a deity-damning ingredient. You can’t make Deviled Eggs, Potato Salad or meatloaf without it. It is legit a magical condiment.
Mustard dates back to Ancient Roman times. Ye know the lads who conquered the world, invented roads, Bridges, aqueducts, toilets and deity-sanctioned orgies. They are the OG mustard-os.
From there, mustard travelled with the Gauls, a group of Celtic people. Gwan the celts. Before settling into its home in Dijon, France, in order to dominate the globe.
We only have ketchup today because of the Brits of the eighteenth century. They took it everywhere on their swanky boats full of enslaved people and colonialism, slathering it all over inedible British food like “kings mutton” and sheep’s eyes. But back then, it was less a flavour enhancer than a way to prevent scurvy, a survival tool while they were fighting to keep America under the thumb. Maybe even when they were quashing our own 1798 rebellion. Perish the thought.
Mustard, however, is democratic in its formulation. This yellowy joie de vivre is so varied in appearance and application that it is said to be Christan Bale’s inspiration. No individual can historically lay claim to it. Of course, there is an “American mustard” whose tacky neon yellow comes from added turmeric.
There’s French’s mustard, which is American and made by the same people who make Franks Hot Sauce. But we also eat brown mustard, beer mustard, Dijon mustard, honey mustard, mustard seeds, and many others.
Ketchup’s differences are only how much sugar is used. Maybe there’s the odd one made with heirloom tomatoes of what have you, but they are all just variations of a theme. Like covers of an Ed Sheeran song everyone is tired of.
We are just in the habit of ketchup. The Irish pallete has come a long way since the far-off days of well-done steak and mush veggies. So, to get out of the knee-jerk ketchup choice, we must embrace mustard. We need less sweet, more tangy. Less meh-I-guess, more gowan-let-me-try-it. Less sure-my-vote-doesn’t-count-anyway, more revolution.
That’s what mustard is, the condiment of freedom-fighters, truth-seekers, questioners of authority, and sec. It’s classically postmodern. The perfect tonic to a dull dish whose eater has grown too complacent and is lets-face-it getting a Lil too flabby around the edges.
Mustard will put hair on the chest of the most supple chested. It is the king of condiments like Kendrick is the king of hip hop. Mustard is the cure. Get on board.
Elsewhere on CHAR: The Enduring Appeal of a Burger and Chips