Appreciating all that makes America special

Food: French's Mustard

Prior to the creation of French's mustard, people had to take mustard seeds or mustard balls and add their own vinegar or wine to make a paste. Uploaded to Flickr by AnnabelB.

I love mustard. I lean toward the dijon and stone ground families, while my wife likes all spicy varieties. But on a hamburger or a hot dog, for me nothing beats good old French’s yellow mustard.

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French’s mustard was, not surprisingly, created by a family in Rochester, N.Y. named French. The world got its first taste of this classic at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. At the time it was called “French’s Cream Salad Mustard,” and it finally became a truly national product in the 1920s.

One of the distinctions of French’s is that it may be the first prepared mustard condiment. Before its introduction, people had to combine mustard seeds or mustard balls with vinegar, wine or other liquids to make a mustard paste. Now that most French’s yellow mustard is sold in squeeze bottles, it’s hard to imagine the sacrifices our mustard-deprived ancestors had to endure for this distinctive taste.

Oh, there’s one funny urban legend about French’s mustard. The French people were robustly unpopular in America at the time of the Iraq war, so the company felt obligated to issue a press release to say that the company name was not based on it being from France. Supposedly, the press release ended, “The only thing we have in common is that we are both yellow.” That wasn’t in the press release, of course, but if they’d truly had a good public relations firm, it would have been…


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