Monday, September 8, 2014

Mustard Yellow

mustard yellow

 He once bought me a beautiful mustard-yellow coat from the Compagnie Française de l'Orient et de la Chine, a stunning wool bouclé coat in the shape of a kimono. To wear in the autumn when the leaves transform from plump, luxurious green to shades of gold and red, violet and chocolate. And mustard yellow. We still refer to it to this day as The Mustard Coat. Later, he offered me a silver ring, thick and chunky almost but not quite like a man's, with three, square stones, citrines, mustard yellow.

 And the gorgeous silk scarf, as large as a shawl, delicate and flowing and the yellow of American mustard! Vibrant and elegant at once, is this how he sees me? I wrap that mustard yellow shawl around my shoulders and as light, as ethereal as is that silk it cloaks me in warmth, the warmth of a yellow sun, the heat of yellow mustard.

 Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the lead pipe.

mustard yellow props

 Leaves the yellow of mustard indicate autumn, leaves the yellow of mustard spread out across the vineyards, flicking in the cool autumn breeze, imitating the watery mustard yellow of the season's sun. 

 Leaves the yellow of mustard gather around the feet of the statue of Anne de Bretagne, herself the color of a tarnished night sky, striding confidently across the tiny square in front of the city's château, her own château, those autumn leaves unruffled. A golden yellow the color of the paper crown I once found perched atop her regal head. 

 Leaves the yellow of mustard collect atop the trees in the city squares, lining the city avenues, leaves rarely auburn or russet but always mustard yellow. Catching the sun. Those yellow leaves flutter down around our own feet, fill the gutters, collecting there to wait for the rain. 

 Dog wading through carpets of matted yellow leaves, tiptoeing, loath to press his feet into the sopping blanket of wet leaves. Photographs, and I have several, of our two boys lying on their backs against another carpet of leaves, mustard yellow, sepia brown, deep amber, or pushing wheelbarrows filled with the colors of an Italian autumn, another era, another dog dancing around their feet. 

 Mustard yellow number 2 pencils clutched in the hands of school children. Remember?

mustard yellow peppers 

A tale without love is like beef without mustard, an insipid dish. - Anatole France 

 What is more French than mustard? Dijon, of course, strong, nay, powerful! The tiniest spoonful clears the sinuses, quite a bang for one's buck, as they say. Mustard is the condiment par excellence, and no French kitchen is complete without a jar or three. 

 And we do. Have jars of mustards, each serving a particular purpose, each serving someone's taste. Dijon, of course, the color of yellow Champagne, the color of dull straw. A delicate yellow belying its often rabid bite. A dollop in a bowl whisked (always with the tines of a fork) with a capful of red wine vinegar and two portions olive oil, salted and peppered, for a French vinaigrette tossed with mixed greens or spooned over steamed leeks or asparagus. Lapin à la moutarde on a disastrous blind date in a tiny Parisian bistro, tiny wooden table topped with crinkly paper placemats on the sidewalk. Wonderful lapin à la moutarde even if the date turned out to be yellow. 

Mustard's no good without roast beef. - Chico Marx 

 We must have a jar of this! he exclaimed as he handed me a jar of scarily lurid, neon yellow Savora mustard. The mustard of his childhood. Gaudy. And whole grain mustard, my son's favorite, flecks of sepia, speckles of amber amid dull gold, khaki yellow. Mustard for dipping chunks of roasted chicken in. Mustard for smearing on a hot dog. 

 American mustards, so different in aspect, in yellow, than their French cousins! Ah, French's mustard, the mustard of my youth is a bold, vivid yellow, so American. With bite but yet not the heat. Zesty yet judicious. And spicy brown the yellow of goldenrods. 

 Creamed honey the color of dull mustard yellow.

mustard yellow powder-2

 Upon my return to France, a return he only half expected, he welcomed me with a bouquet of tulips, golden and mustard yellow tulips that somehow matched the color of my tattered old silk dressing gown. 

 Fields of colza dazzling in the sun, dazzlingly yellow spread out in blankets of mustard yellow as our car whizzes along the autoroute or through country roads of France. Or fields of sunflowers, their petals a bright, vivid yellow, all staring intently at the sun. Fields of flames. 

 Bananas and squash, shiny yellow peppers, corn on the cob. Early apricots or French butter. And French egg yolks. Mangos? Dried apples and devilled eggs. Ah, macaroni and cheese and cheese soufflé especially when kicked up with a spoonful or two of. Mustard. Cornbread. 

 Yet mustard greens, although with the peppery bite, the heat of mustard, are green. 

 So green. Sponge Bob, Big Bird, Winnie the Pooh. Curious George and the Man with the Mustard Yellow Hat?

mustard yellow recipe

These are the perfect bread to serve with a light meal of soup or salad, a meal of grilled meat or fish and plain vegetables, or a sweet and savory brunch; the cheddar cheese, the mustard and the green onions give these easy-to-make muffins the punch of flavor an otherwise simple meal needs. Serve them warm from the oven with lots of butter to melt onto the tender, moist crumb. 


2 cups (260 g) flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 Tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
¾ cup (175 ml) milk
¼ cup (4 Tbs, 60 g) butter, melted
3 Tbs Dijon or Dijon-style mustard
1 ½ cups (about 6 oz, 180 g) grated sharp or extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
½ tsp paprika
1 – 2 Tbs thin green onions/scallions, tender green part only, or chives, chopped (I would use some of the white too)

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin either by lining the cups with cupcake papers or greasing generously.

 In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and a generous grinding of black pepper. In a separate medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, melted butter, mustard, grated cheese, paprika and chopped greens. Whisk until well blended.

 Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients in the larger bowl and, using a rubber or silicone spatula, fold just until well combined. Do not over mix! Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, dividing evenly. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed, golden and set in the centers. Remove from oven, turn out of the tins and serve warm.

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  1. Lovely writing and sounds like a wonderful recipe. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I was always Colonel Mustard when we played Clue. I wonder what this says about me? lol This is lovely, and the perfect subject for yellow summer sun giving way to golden autumn leaves.

    Cheddar and mustard are just perfect together--I love the muffins, Jamie! And Ilva, good lord woman! Your photos are always so singular and stunning. You Da Bomb, bofe of you.

  3. I refuse to choose between the writing (so lush!) photography (so lush!) and the promise of those cheddar muffins.

  4. Mustard has always been my favorite condiment and mustard has always been my favorite shade of yellow. The muffins look divine!

  5. Always an extra special treat to pop in and read you, Jamie, and feast on Ilva's stunning shots. What a duo! Now I'm paying attention to mustard colours around me this week. My girls would adore the cheddar muffins, so thanks for the recipe bonus!