Some people spend their entire lives looking for the perfect Moutarde. The path can be dark and misleading, with a landscape of offerings that seem to consistently miss the mark. It’s enough to make you consider and reconsider your purpose, but still there’s hope. We can understand it better by looking at our predecessors, for example wine merchant Kermit Lynch.
In 1972 Kermit scraped together the money he had to open a wine import business, in hopes of finding a Moutarde that could hold a flame to the caliber of wines he and his colleagues would drink. Carefully, by putting together a catalogue of products at the forefront of their craft, he created a reputation for having his ear to the ground on small artisan producers. But still, forty-so years and some trips to far reaches of the world later, he had yet to bring home his magnum opus.
Flash forward to the mid-2010s, and Kermit is introduced to Les Produits Pic in Saint-Hilaire-d'Ozilhan, a beautiful, unassuming commune in the South of France. The town consists of three ecologies: a very small Medieval center, a slightly larger "old-town" center, with extensive surrounding habitation of farming land as well as vineyards and, just to the east of the village, some very large olive orchards. Depuis 1963, Produits Pic has tapped it’s fertile surroundings to offer a range of products such as aromatic herbs, spice mixtures, oils, vinegars, fish specialties, snails, and last but not least: mustards.
“One taste of Thierry and Christine Boucard’s Cuvée Alouettes ignites a craving in me for a juicy bistro burger finished with a schmear of spicy moutarde forte'' Kermit says in his January 2020 wine brochure. I personally can’t speak to the wine that’s mentioned here, and when put in the same context as this moutarde, I honestly couldn’t be bothered to. See Clark Z. Terry’s autobiographical poem, written about his personal account with Moutarde Forte:
“For nearly a decade this mustard has been part of my daily lunch routine. Baguette from acme, salami and cheese kept in the fridge, and a good dose of this strong moutarde. Don’t limit yourself to using this as just a condiment—it adds a good kick to sauces too. If you haven’t yet tried the Produits Pic Moutarde Forte, get to know what is without question our most popular grocery item.”
-Clark Z. Terry
Clark’s homily has a poignant message. “Don’t limit yourself”. For him, the moutarde was a revelation. It signified a shift from moving through life passively, to taking control of one’s own destiny. As if it were saying: your new life starts right here, in this moment, with Moutarde Forte.
(Above: Primitive Moutarde Figures discovered in The South of France.)
But we can pull more from a broader view. The arrival of Moutarde in California marked a shift for the food world at large. It was a sign of hope for condiments, spices, and sauce that had long fallen behind to unforgiving advancements in breadmaking. After the boom of natural fermentation that occurred in the post-Gjusta-era 2010s, Los Angeles was turned into a garden of Eden for spreadable vessels, unable to keep up with the bounty of contemporary artisan output. The arrival of Moutarde was essential. Not a second too early nor too late, it served as a beacon of light in a dark time, met with rejoice.
A bite of good Moutarde is like a hug from an old friend. It wraps around your body, a sensory experience that leaves you feeling warm and fulfilled. To engage with Moutarde Forte is to enter a reciprocal relationship, equal parts of respect and appreciation. If you can today, I suggest you find a friend, and tell them you love them the only way we as human beings can: a thick slab of bread and cheese with a strong dose of Moutarde Forte.
For his work in the Moutarde world, Kermit Lynch has won two James Beard awards and was knighted by the French government with their prestigious “Legion d’Honneur”. He and his wife Gail Skoff divide their time between Berkeley, California and Provence, France—where Kermit says he is “near enough to Saint-Hilaire-d'Ozilhan that I can fill up the trunk of my car whenever I need to.”
Anywhere in the World Moutarde Forte Slab: (You can make this recipe from anywhere)
1 Loaf Fresh Sourdough Bread
16g EVOO or Buerre de Baratte
1 Wedge Dry Cheese
1 Jar Les Produit Pics Moutarde Forte
Serrated bread knife
Wooden Cutting Board
Small bread & butter dishes
Some sort of blanket
Some dry white wine to drink
Take your loaf of bread and cut it to your desired style. I’m a fan of the wedge, cutting like the hands of a clock, rotating around the center. Regardless of the shape, I aim for 1-2 inch heights per slice; you’re looking for a thick sturdy vessel. Assemble a pile of bread on whatever surface you see fit.
Give your bread stack a quick once or twice over drizzle with EVOO (try to hit each slice evenly). Alternatively, you can pour EVOO into a lipped bread and butter dish to create a shallow pool sauce to dip into. If you’re a purist, feel free to skip this step. But consider it a primer for the bread to receive it’s dose of Moutarde..
Spread ~1–2 (or 3 for a real Moutarde Freak) teaspoons of Moutarde evenly over the bread, until it’s nicely, completely nice. Learn from a friend's technique, and then share your own. Join in a ceremony of bread and Moutarde. Honor the provenance and purity of all the ingredients involved.
Eat standing up, on the floor, walking around, or upside down. No need to worry about sitting at a table with a fork and knife, but if you can sit for a second, it can help one’s appreciation. Although, sometimes the beauty is being on the go.
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Published in the print edition of the September 2021 Psychic Wines VISIONS issue #37.