Eleven Mustards

By: Emma Johnston

The other day while I was putting away our groceries I opened the fridge and was met with a half full bottle of mustard falling out on top of me. I picked up the offending bottle and after glaring at the label for a good minute trying to figure out WHEN we had bought this specialty whisky and Dijon mustard I then tried to squish it back into the fridge door. As I tried my own version of refrigerator Tetris I realized I was trying to fit my mustard bottle into a space that was already completely occupied by other mustard bottles. Confused about WHY I would have more than one open container of mustard in my fridge, I began pulling out the mustards I found and lined them up on my counter. Eleven. There were eleven different types of mustard in my refrigerator. Honey mustard, Dijon, spicy, classic French’s. You name it, we have it, half full and taking up my coveted fridge space.
I wish I could say it was just mustard that we tend to have a growing stash of, but it is not. From multiple mayonnaises’, a variety of flours, Twenty-Seven jars of Epicure spices, six types of salt, sauce mixes, chutneys and jams, we have an ever available selection of condiments, toppings and flavour enhancers.
In fact, with the plethora of kitchen equipment, spiralizers, blenders, Kitchen Aid mixers and vast selection of knives, we could conceivably open our own commercial kitchen. However, this week, our mass amount of mustards and over flowing baking cupboards didn’t fill me with a sense of joy. I like to take the last week before school starts and organize things. I like to know what I need to get for the start of the school year. I like to take inventory of what we have and what we need, be prepared for the onslaught of early morning lunch prep for three small children. Eleven mustards? Two of my three kids don’t even eat mustard!
So, after counting ‘out loud’ the eleven mustard bottles, I turned to my husband. You see, the mustards aren’t mine. I don’t mind whipping together a meal but I’m not a creative in the kitchen. You’ll get spaghetti or roast beef or lasagna from me, but from my husband, you will eat like royalty. The mustards were undeniably his and so I glared at him, a glass jar of mustard in my hand and a look of ‘frustrated wife’ on my face.
“Eleven Mustards?” I growled (I may have stomped my foot).
His head shot up. He’d been in the kitchen beside me, but he was elbow deep in flour and bananas and baking soda. In short, he was in heaven and hadn’t even noticed my careful line of mustards.
I was going to tell him how frustrated I was. I was going to explain how long it takes to make kids lunches and if I didn’t know what we have in the fridge it would make my morning routine even more rushed. I was going to demand he streamline his mustard collection down to a respectable 6 bottles of mustard.
Then I stopped myself. My husband loves cooking. He loves to bake. He loves to create treats in the kitchen for his entire family. He loves to wow us with his pulled pork, lovingly smoked for 13 hours. He loves to lay out elaborate charcuterie boards with his eleven different mustards. He loves to bake banana bread and make soups and ensure his family is filled with all the culinary delights he is capable of. I stopped myself, growled quietly and then artfully balanced the mustard I was holding on top of a tower of milk bags, egg cartons, and Branston Pickle.
I realized that though being organized is fabulous and having a tidy fridge is wonderful (in concept, I’ve never had one) and only having one mustard could, in fact, be quite liberating, I wouldn’t trade all the chaos of my kitchen to stifle the thing my husband loves to do.
He has never once complained about my hundreds of books piled and scattered around our home. He’s never said “finish your first book before you buy another one” to me. He’s never complained about my hobbies, no matter how destructive, messy or heavy they are, he just looks at my tower of library books piled in the front hall, then wanders to the kitchen and cooks up something delicious. I couldn’t, in good conscience, verbalize my mustard frustration.
If ever you come to my house, if ever you peer into the fridge and have to dodge quickly for safety’s sake, just know it’s on purpose. I want to keep a messy, unorganized fridge. I want to have to dig for 30 minutes to find the ketchup, I want to pull questionable cucumbers from the back drawer – if it supports what my husband loves to do, if it blesses me with great meals, if it gives him a healthy way to channel his own passion and creativity, I’ll let the fridge be what it is. Besides, when I’m curled up with one of my books and a fresh home baked cinnamon bun, I won’t even know or care how messy my fridge is or how many jars of mustard we have.

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