This is not a story about mustard. It is a story about much more than that. It is about addiction, genetics, force of habit, and only a little bit about mustard.
Today was my first day at work at Vroman's. I had a 12-5 shift this afternoon and the whole prospect of having something to do with my days again is very exciting for me. So exciting that I forgot to eat lunch before I went in. By about 1:30 I was FAMISHED since I'd only had a bowl of cereal this morning at 9:30. I had my 15 minute break at 2:00 and I RAN over to Target, picked up half a loaf of bread, some turkey slices and a bottle of mustard. I slapped together a sandwich on a picnic table behind Target, and ran back over to Vromans, shoving the sack full of sandwich ingredients in the break room fridge and licked the last bit of mustard of my finger as I walked back into the upstairs office where my supervisor was waiting for me.
By the end of my shift, I'm tired, and thirsty, but satisfied from a good day meeting new people and learning new things. I grabbed my target bag of sandwichy things and headed out. As I emptied the bag into my refrigerator at home just a few minutes ago, I put the new bottle of mustard onto a shelf in the door of the fridge that has seven other bottles of mustard on it. Not seven different KINDS of mustard...most of it's yellow mustard (french's, preferably) with one jar of garlic mustard, a jar of home made sweet-hot mustard (from my friend Nanci at Disney), and a bottle of champagne honey mustard. This is not the first time I've been aware of my problem...or rather that there is A problem.
Let's back up. I am a woman of extremes. I believe this is partially a genetic, partially a learned characteristic. My great grandpa Charles McGranaghan was renowned for loving salty things. It's even rumored that, at least for a short time, he put salt on his ham. He also had a long torso and short, stubby popeye type legs...this is also genetic....
My father is probably the best example of what I like to call a serial addict. (Different from a cereal addict, which is what my sister Mary is.) My dad will become addicted INTENSELY to one food, substance or habit for a period ranging anywhere from one month to a few years. Take Pacman for example. Just after he and my mom got married, they had a couple of friends over for dinner. At one point, my dad told everyone he was going to go into the kitchen to do the dishes. A few hours later, they found him down at the arcade playing pacman. My mom hadn't known him long enough to know that he NEVER does dishes (something else I inherited) and it's almost always a ruse to excuse himself from the room to do something useful and he ends up doing something else altogether. The mysterious part about his addictions is that my dad ultimately ends up dropping each of them cold...at a completely unexpected time. Hey, at least it keeps him off the streets.
Our family has learned to work around and, in some cases, even embrace these momentary fancies of my father's elusive subconscious needs. I have rarely seen so much joy on his face as I did a few months ago when I was visiting home and my dad skipped into the kitchen to tell me and my sister that he'd just ordered some Tupelo honey online. Mary and I looked at each other with an undertone of concern. Dad had just discovered that Tupelo honey has a lower glycemic index than other types of honey (it's also ridiculously tasty) and therefore more tolerable for diabetics...which he is. We asked him how MUCH honey had been purchased and as he left the room he tossed a grin over his shoulder and said "oh, about thirty five pounds worth."
Thirty five pounds of honey arrived on our doorstep three to five business days later. He lined up the seven five-pound plastic jars in different areas of our house. First they were arranged on the stove as they were unpacked. Then, they were on the Kitchen table for about half an hour. Finally, they found themselves being displayed on top of a bookshelf in our living room...neatly spaced and centered for aesthetic purposes...followed by a solemn reading, by my father, of the nutritional benefits (with special emphasis on the part about the low glycemic index) and directions for storing and taking care of our bulk-bought Tupelo honey. He was so happy.
For his birthday a few weeks ago, my mom and sister filled the refrigerator in the garage with three of his current addictions: Diet A&W rootbeer, sugar free jello pudding cups (chocolate AND vanilla); and sugar free cool whip. There was nothing else in the fridge but these three items lined up like soldiers, each one ready to chip off a little bit more of the addiction until it is gone completely.
Eventually, these addictions will enter the graveyard of addictions-past along with pacman, diet coke, cigarettes, donkey kong, doom and playing "color my world" on the out of tune piano.
Staring at my mustard collection, I think about the things I too have discarded in my addiction-ridden past. Jane Austen, instant potatoes with sour cream and garlic, hot chocolate with vodka, ketchup, various video games, tall cold glasses of milk, Dick Van Dyke and Gilligan’s Island reruns (a result of elementary school insomnia) and keychain collecting. I know it won't last much longer. At the end of my first day at work, I'm going to make myself feel better by putting loads of mustard of a bowl full of plain brown rice ...and I'm okay with that because history lets me know it's just a phase...it's just a comfort condiment. And, it keeps me off the streets.