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Every Tuesday at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m., Tom Harte shares a few thoughts on food and shares recipes. A founder of “My Daddy’s Cheesecake,” a bakery/café in Cape Girardeau, a food columnist for The Southeast Missourian, and a cookbook author, he also blends his passion for food with his passion for classical music in his daily program, The Caffe Concerto.

A Harte Appetite: Try Cutting the Mustard

flickr user Bruce Fingerhood (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
Mustard fields somewhere near Seville, CA

In his monumental work Ulysses, James Joyce suggested that God made food and the devil made seasoning. But even the Bible speaks admiringly of mustard seed, the basis for one of the world's most popular condiments.

The mustard plant is fully deserving of accolades. For centuries its been used as a food, flavoring and folk remedy. In fact it was so important as a medicinal herb to the ancient Greeks that they credited their god of medicine for its creation.

Over the years the plant and its seeds have been prescribed for ailments ranging from snake bites to sinus congestion. Mustard oil has even been tried as a cure for baldness.

But its in the kitchen where mustard works the most miracles. There's hardly any part of the plant that cannot be used for culinary purposes. In the 19th century kitchen this versatile ingredient was relied upon as much as staples like flour and eggs.

Nearly every country seems to have its own specialty mustard. In France, which still produces half of the world's mustard, there's of course the famous variety from the city of Dijon which has been made there since the 14th century. In Britain Coleman's , which has been in business for more than 175 years, is the name most people associate with the condiment. Roast beef, the national dish in Britain, is traditionally served with mustard, the national condiment. In Germany they have Dusseldorf mustard and Bavarian mustard. In China and Japan they like their mustard especially hot. And in Italy the use of mustard takes on a unique dimension where it flavors syrups used to preserve fruit.

Mustard can perk up any dish -- even dessert. A small amount of dry mustard added to chocolate sauce or gingerbread, for example, works wonder. 

No wonder history is replete with famous mustard lovers such as Pope Clement VI who ate mustard at every meal. You may not want to go as far as he did but if you want to add interest to your cooking, try cutting the mustard.

Tom Harte is a retired faculty member from Southeast Missouri State University where he was an award-winning teacher, a nationally recognized debate coach, and chair of the department of Speech Communication and Theatre.
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