“We’re running late. If you have the time, hit the store near the dock and pick up some sandwich stuff for tomorrow. Later.”
Erik and I hadn’t fished in the salt for at least 30 years, and I had arrived in Garibaldi, OR at the agreed upon time. I-5 traffic around Seattle had slowed him and his son Nick down, and I had some time to kill. The local store had everything we needed for a boat lunch the next day. We’d be in rough water, so it needed to be portable and easy to eat. Pastrami, turkey, some wheat bread, mayo, Dijon mustard, dill pickles, bag of chips, and I was done. Oh, and a couple of Bud-Clamato 22s to down during the wait.
Erik’s a good Norwegian. Short on words about opinions of others, very clear about his own, he’s as flexible as a steel post, and doesn’t apologize for his convictions. A perfect combination for our usual discussions about politics, business, skirts of yesteryear, and the 25 or so years we both have left to argue, laugh, fish, and punk each other the entire time we fish together and that’s what we do.
The truck door flew open, and Nick first emerged. The kid has made a real name for himself as a professional comedian, and I hadn’t seen him since he was about 14. Wasting no time in throwing verbal punches, I helped them unload the truck, transferring most everything into our taudry hotel room. We were talking about the other characters staying there, including some suspect looking women who we figured were there to work the charter boat guests, when he stopped, fixated on something on the table.
“Why did you get gay mustard? WTF John! ” I looked at him, attempting to not appear totally stupid, but my expression spoke to the void of understanding. “GRAY POUPON??? Jesus! You’ve been in California WAY too long, man. It’s French’s. Mustard was not intended to be fancy. It’s intended to taste like mustard, not some mixed marriage of wine, herbs, seasonings and other stuff that belongs in a roof garden in ‘Frisco. That’s gay mustard. It’s just wrong!”
Reflecting on our “lively” political conversation the last time we fished together a few weeks ago, I was reminded that Erik is a good Democrat, an Obama supporter, free thinker, pretty much consistent with most of Western Oregon and Washington. He’s making a point abut food, no code words here, and it got me in the experimental mode.
Back home, it was time to experiment with some “non-gay” mustard, which I hadn’t tasted for probably 10 years. Armed with a squeeze bottle of French’s Yellow Mustard, I set out to replace my “Gay Poupon” as he called it, in several applications. First, I used it as a coating for a whole chicken. The effect was pleasant. While I could never taste the dijon, which was intentional, the slight odor of mustard seed was pleasant. Next, I mixed it with the same barbequed chicken that I chop into a chicken salad. BBQ4Dummies strongly favors low fat, healthy barbeque, and mustard is an excellent substitute for mayonnaise in most cases. I liked it. It was pungent, and next time I’d cut back, but the depth was noticeable. Last, I added some to my cajun cole slaw, and it totally improved it over the dijon.
Now, I get it. There’s something to using basic, focused spices and condiments that can provide a stepwise progression of taste sensations, as opposed to the cacophony sometimes created by ingredients that can be overly complex for the food item.
If you’re like me and assume that dijon is your go-to mustard, pick up a bottle of French’s Yellow and try it. You might find that you’ve missed that basic odor and taste more than you thought.