Kathmandu:

The first Saturday in August is National Mustard Day in America, and there is also a mustard season in Nepal when the middle hills have terraces full of the golden plant: the terraces seem to lift to the heavens offering the gold to the gods. It is mustard time.

A time remembered from 2,500 years ago when a woman came to the Buddha with a dead child asking the boon of life. The Buddha told her to bring back a handful of mustard seed from a family that hasn’t suffered death. When she couldn’t find one, she realised that grief extended everywhere and was inevitable.

Jesus Christ had his parable of the mustard seed where he showed that smallest of seeds grow plants so big as to provide shelter for birds. In 1715, an Order of the Mustard Seed was found in Germany with the aim of being true to Christ, kind to all people and spreading the news of the Gospel to the world.

Not only do this two stories talk about mustard in different parts of the world, they talk about the spread of a spice that is second only to pepper in its use.

Said the writer Anatole France, “A tale without love is like meat without mustard; an insipid dish.”

The word mustard itself derives from the French word mout — a term used by wine makers. The mout is the grape juice for making wine, thus, the moutarde of France was the original liquid used in making mustard paste.

Once it was used as a medicine as well. You cured everything from colds to

spider attacks and it was recommended to make rigid sinews subtle by using it as massage oil.

And it is mustard oil that is used for cooking in the sub-continent. One of the more wondrous sights are the old mustard presses in the village of Thecho. These date back some 300 years and are in danger of disappearing.

Half of the world’s mustard comes from the Dijon region of France and it is the subject of gourmet writing. According to The New York Time Food Encyclopedia compiled by Craig Claiborne who says, “It is purely subjective, but I have my own theories that mustards vary from region to region, and that each mustard has special affinity for certain foods that, in general, are also regional.

“Such French mustard as that of Dijon or Meaux, bearing such names as Grey Poupon, Maille, Pikarome, Pommery, and so on, go especially well with such foods as roast leg of lamb, French meat specialties such as garlic sausages, French style, chitterling sausages, blood sausages. And it is present in mayonnaise sauces of French origin in Dijon.

“German mustards such as Dusseldorf are highly compatible with smoked German pork products. Creole mustard, notably Zatarain’s brand, made in New Orleans, has no peer as an ingredient for remoulade sauce. The bright yellow mustard, whose colour is due to the addition of turmeric, is made in America and it has no challengers when it comes to something to smear on hot dogs.

“In England, one of the most famous personages in mustard lore is a Mrs Clement of Durham (some say Lancashire). Although mustard paste had been used for many years, this 18th century woman produced a mustard made with a finer powder and a brighter appearance, and sold it from the back of wagon all over the country.

“The Chinese and the English have a preference for freshly made hot mustard, and it is as ideal as a side condiment for Chinese food as it is for rare roasts.”