Looking back, I think my visceral reaction stemmed from the fact that all I knew of mustard was, more or less, French's. I don't know if that's a product of me being me, of growing up in Pennsylvania farm country, or of the fact that it was the '80s. (I blame a lot on the '80s—namely Zubaz.) But whatever the reason, woof.
But visiting the French town of Dijon changed all that for me. It was a drizzly fall day—perfect for exploring the towns and villages of Burgundy, the rain making the famous mosaic tile roofs shine and stand out against the gray sky—and, sugar drunk from what was literally the world’s greatest macaroon*, I threw caution to the wind and followed George into the Maille mustard shop on Rue de la Liberte.
As he wandered around looking for souvenirs, which he would, for real, later have confiscated by the French airport authorities, (When the TSA tells you three ounces, they mean three ounces, no matter how hard George tries to convince you otherwise.), I snuck over to the sample section, my fear of mustard trumped only by my love of anything free. I dabbed a microscopic bit of a white wine mustard onto a cracker and shoved it in my face before I could talk myself out of it. It was divine, and a far cry from the yellow horror I’d grown up with. I was soon sampling everything in sight, and was dangerously close to sticking my head directly under the mustard faucets until George pulled me away. I haven’t been able to stop since.
I know that eating mustard isn’t the equivalent of like … I don’t know, eating tortoise brains … but I’m a fairly wimpy eater, and because of that, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Dijon, a town that taught me to try something new, just in case in helps me break away from an old fear.
*Go directly to Patiserie Vannier (Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.) and hope and pray that when you get there they’ve still got a caramel macaroon for you to procure. There is no way that this is a bad idea as you are about to eat the most delicious foodstuff known to man.