In Defense of Mustard

Years ago, in a place not too far removed from where I now sit, existed place of intrigue. A place so magical that words can just start to describe the outline of its wonder. But that is what I shall endeavor to do.

On the South-East corner of U.S. Route 6 and Auburn Road is a non-descript building. It could house any small town business, and in its life has probably run the full circuit of possibilities. I would drive past that location frequently and rarely take notice of its latest purpose. But then one day a new sign appeared. The sign said “Mike’s Weinery”.

Within milliseconds my head filled with a complete picture of what that building now contained. Walking in you would find a dim but cozy room. Leather armchairs were arranged in pairs around darkly stained, wood end tables. On these tables were crystal cigar ashtrays and a tasteful array of matches housed in a colorful, but not gaudy, box. Lamps hang from the ceiling above each of these tables, dropping a pool of light. Enough for conversation and basic utility but no more.

Running down the right wall was a proper bar. The copper bar-top showed the patina of a well-used but lovingly maintained fixture of at least seventy-five years. Behind the bar were simple shelves with a very small assortment of bottles. All were scotches, most single-malts but some fine blended examples. A selection of tap handles shown only beer that was heavy and substantial. Beer that invites one to sit and ponder its complexity and soundness of purpose. In this place there are no frivolous libations.

On the left was housed the diversions which began with two billiard tables. Not to be confused with the vulgar game of pool, billiards is a gentlemanly game of skill and finesse. Further down the wall were two dart boards. True darts–no electronic abomination–with simple chalk boards to keep the tally. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the diversion area was marked by the absence of something. Nowhere would one see a television as that electronic medium is anathema to rest and thought and has no place in such a refuge of civilized man.

On the far wall was a simple chalk board, ten feet in height and approximately the same in its width. Listed in a clear yet elegant hand were today’s selection of local sausages. Each day the proprietor would scour the local butcher shops, collecting each shop’s finest sausage specialties. Heavy garlic Slovenian, Andouille, Boudin, even allowing for the newer chicken varieties, even though their pedigree was not yet firmly settled.

However none of the above could compare to what was installed next to the great sausage list–the Wall of Mustards. Standing a dozen feet high yet only a foot deep was a glass refrigerated case. On each of its illuminated shelves stood bottles of mustard from around the world. Sharp mustards, mustards with fine graining, mustards with heavy graining, spicy mustards, hot mustards, mustards with horseradishes from Eastern and Western Asia. Every mustard imaginable as every sausage needs its foil. The melody to its rhythm, as it were.

This was a place where a man could arrive after a hard day’s toil, drink a proper beverage and partake of a sausage sandwich that would make his ancestors proud of their sacrifices. As the evening progressed, intelligent conversation could be had over cognac and fine cigars. This facility was a paramount of civility and fine society, all lock step in steady progress to the betterment of man.

At least a year went by and I never stopped in the establishment. I drove past and could almost smell the leather and mustard. But there was always someplace to be in a timely fashion. Then one day I stopped.

Anticipation was overwhelming. I stepped from my car and my nerves tensed. Would I be accepted in such a fine establishment? Would my coarseness prove a curse and cause a banishment so horrifying that I would have to leave town if not the country? I stopped, took a deep breath and steeled my will for the greatness which was before me.

I opened the door and it was a God-damned Hot Dogs and More. Two fucking convicts were doped up behind the Ferris wheel of dessicated meat that was provided in their start-up kit a year before. It smelled. It was blatantly unclean. The yellow light buzzed and flickered, amplifying the apathy spilling forth within. It was the very picture of crassness and the failure of humanity.

Ever since that first day of seeing that sign, however, I have had a dream. The place could be real. The Wall of Mustards, the Sausage Board, the fine cognac and scotch. It may not be in this world but perhaps in the next it exists. And one day I will be there. And it will be good.

Note: The header picture is from the closest I’ve found to this ideal. I will write about this one day. FLX Wienery.