Blackwater: A Mustard Review
It’s a quiet night at the Country Spirit Restaurant and Tavern, an establishment that I work at four days a week as a hostess. It’s not much, but it’s honest work, and one of the perks is that for every shift I work I get a free meal (under twelve dollars). I consistently order the portabella burger on an asiago roll with avocado and fresh cut fries, this comes out to a total of $11.95, meaning that it not only satisfies all my vegetarian food groups (mushroom, avocado, bread, and potato), but it also satisfies the twelve dollar limit applied to my nightly meal, and it is for these reasons that I continue to order it. However, the fact that I order this same meal as frequently as I do of course leads to some playful jabbing from the cooks.
“Oh, Lia,” they say to me, “we must warn you before you put in your meal, we are out of mushrooms!”
“Oh, Lia,” they say to me, “does that interfere with your plans? Were you perhaps going to order the portabella burger?”
Well it is on this night that I decide to show the cooks, to show everyone, that I am capable of expanding my horizons. I am not so incorrigible that I can not order something new at least once.
The veggie burger was added to the Country Spirit’s menu last spring. I vaguely recall a frantic memo that was written by management with all the information one needed to know about it posted in the kitchen and at the host stand. I recall thinking that as one of only a couple vegetarians working at the restaurant at the time, that I had an obligation to try the burger for myself. This never came about simply due to the fact that the veggie burger was priced just above twelve dollars, and therefore if I were to try it for my employee meal, I would have to fork over roughly ninety-five cents at the end of my shift to cover the difference, and frankly that usually isn’t something I am willing to do, but on this fateful night, the night when I shock the cooks by ordering something other than my regular sandwich, I am willing to splurge, not just on the extra ninety-five cents for the sandwich itself, but also the extra two dollars for avocado and fresh cut fries.
I go into the computer to input my meal, clicking on the tab marked “Burgers and Sandwiches,” and scrolling down, past my beloved portabella, all the way to box which reads “VEGGIE BURG,” in all capital letters. I click. I add my modifications, the avocado, the fresh cuts, the asiago roll. And I wait.
It is roughly fifteen minutes later when my pager buzzes indicating my meal is ready. I enter the kitchen to see what awaits me in the window. There she is, I think, looking at the sandwich plated under the heat lamps.
The sandwich itself is not what I expected, right off the bat, most likely because I did not read the description on the menu prior to ordering it, and I just barely remember the description given on the memo posted months earlier. There is no tomato, no onion, but there is shredded carrot, some dark green lettuce or maybe kale, the avocado I ordered, and a mystery condiment.
I take a bite and it is this mystery condiment which immediately catches me off guard. The first thought that comes to my mind is “peanut butter?” due to the chunky consistency of it. I peel back the asiago roll to see a beige-ish looking sauce, which only furthers my peanut butter theory, but this doesn’t taste like peanut butter. This tastes musty, maybe a little spicy, a flavor I would later describe as “angry gingerbread cookies,” to one of my coworkers, who would then respond by asking me what kind of cookies I have been consuming.
I am a very stubborn person, generally speaking, and along with that I also pride myself on being able to eat very gross things without even making a face (I once drank fifteen Taco-Bell hot sauce packets just to make five dollars, my taste buds are as good as fried), so I push myself to power through this experience, but it is this sauce, this condiment, this ginger-bread-peanut-butter-crunchy-beigey-musty dressing that continues to torture my tongue, growing stronger and most unbearable with every bite. Midway through the sandwich I decide I can no longer take it, and when no one is looking, I throw it in the garbage and exit the kitchen, as nonchalantly as possible.
But to no avail, because it is only minutes later that my coworker and my manager come to find me at the host stand, concerned for my well being as it is so out of character for me to not finish any meal. I confess to them that I could not finish my sandwich because I found the condiment with which it was dressed to be absolutely, positively inedible, and I could not force myself to eat it. It was then that I learned the name of the dreaded sauce, “Blackwater Mustard.” A locally sourced mustard with a kick.
“It’s a little spicy,” they said as if that were the reason for which I could not choke it down.
Oh, how I wish that I could not eat the mustard because it was spicy, but alas I confessed that mayhaps my palate simply wasn’t refined enough to enjoy such a high class condiment.
This was an experience I had exactly one week ago and in the days that followed I found that the taste of that mustard was haunting my taste buds, to the point where I could not eat anything without being reminded of the way that mustard coated my tongue and shook me to my very core. I needed answers. What was it about this mustard that irked me so? Where did it come from? What was it made of? I set out on an investigation.
First, and foremost, what is Blackwater Mustard. I initially was under the impression that it was just another type of mustard, such as Dijon mustard, honey mustard, or even hot mustard. This assumption was incorrect. As it would turn out, Blackwater is actually a local mustard company based out of Contoocook, NH, close to the banks of the Blackwater river. They specialize in making homemade mustard with quality ingredients and “NO emulsifiers or preservatives,” for which I can only commend them, if there is one thing I know it is that the world needs more organic mustard producers.
The next most important thing for me to find out was what exactly was in the mustard. For if I could perhaps find an ingredient or ingredients that I knew for sure I didn’t like the taste of, then maybe that would enlighten me as to why I do not like the taste of the mustard as a whole. Thus, when I returned to the Country Spirit I asked the cooks for all of the ingredients in the Blackwater Mustard and they listed off to me only four simple ingredients: mustard seed, sugar, vinegar, and egg. I know for certain that I do enjoy all of these ingredients separately, though I do not often find myself indulging cravings for plain vinegar or mustard seed. For the sake of journalism, I decided that I had to try these ingredients in combinations of two and three to figure out where the problem lay. What I came to find was that actually all of these ingredients put together in groups of two and three are gross (it is possible that the consumption of raw egg contributed to the unpleasantness of many of these combinations, so take that into account). The only combinations I found that weren’t absolutely disgusting were sugar and egg, and vinegar and mustard seed, though I still wouldn’t recommend whipping yourself up a nice sugar-egg smoothie or a mustard-vinegar cocktail if you’re in the mood for a tasty treat.
I was at a crossroads, I decided the only thing left to do was try the mustard again for myself, then take to the streets and see what the masses think. I once more returned to the Country Spirit and asked the cooks for a ramekin of the Blackwater Mustard that I could take with me. This sparked some confusion amongst the kitchen as at this point everyone was in someway aware of my feelings towards the mustard, but I quickly informed them all that I needed it for science.
Today was the day I tried the mustard again.
Upon opening the ramekin the mustard gives a smell similar to that of any other mustard, but as it continues to permeate through my nasal passage I am reminded of the distress it caused me only a week ago, and tears are nearly brought to my eyes. I dip my spoon into the mustard and then slip it into my mouth and am immediately overwhelmed by the flavor as well as the texture. There is no doubt that this mustard was still not for me.
After trying it again myself I go across the hall to ask me friend and floormate, Guershon Villiere, what he thought of the mustard.
His first reaction was that it has a “very strong mustard taste,” he then asks me why it is chunky. I inform him that the chunk factor is due to the presence of the mustard seeds.
“Mustard has seeds?” he then asks. I inform him that yes, mustard does have seeds. Astonished by this new information, he goes in for another taste.
“I’ve never been a big mustard guy in my life” he confesses, “but if I had to choose this mustard or the other mustards I’ve had…I’d choose the other mustards.”
I then go to ask Rob Pagliucu, the only other person home at the time of my experiment, what he thinks of the mustard. Just waking up from a nap, he reluctantly takes a spoonful and heaves it into his mouth. He ponders the mustard before expressing that it is “sweet, kinda chunky…an eight (out of ten),” and that he would probably like to “have it with some chicken.
What is interesting here is the polarized response to the mustard from the people who try it. Most of my coworkers at the Country Spirit swear to me that it is delicious in all of its local glory, Rob says that it would probably be good with chicken, while Guershon and I both think that it is not very good at all, and should not be enjoyed with chicken or otherwise. This mustard is much like the poetry of John Ashbery or the musical stylings of Taylor Swift in that way.
I encourage you, reader who has gotten this far into this mustard review: Try the Blackwater Mustard for yourself and learn which camp you fall into, then perhaps we might all have a discussion about our respective views on the mustard. One can only hope.