Sunday, August 2, 2009

Polish Pride: Mustard Edition

Yesterday, having done battle at Soulard Farmers Market, I stopped by a grocery store because I had forgotten to buy apples, and I was not up for a second round of battle with that unending knot of slow-moving people. There were also a few items I needed that cannot be found at the farmer's market: dryer sheets, Nutella, and mustard.

At the store, I was pleasantly surprised to spot a mustard with a Polish name on it: Kosciusko. I had no idea who this guy was, but I recognized the name as Polish, and that was good enough for me. My train of thought ran this way: "Wow, mustard made by a Polish guy. I'm Polish, and I like Polish things. I bet this Polish mustard is fabulously delicious."

This morning, when I turned the little plastic barrel around, expecting to find that it had been made in Detroit's Polishtown (Hamtramck) or perhaps imported directly from Poland, I learned that it had been made by Plochman's, a company founded by a German emigre and originally based in Chicago. As best I can figure out from their website, they started making it in the mid-1990s.

So now I'm questioning my purchase logic. Was it really Polish pride that made me buy that mustard? The lure of the familiar? The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it becomes: I am not a fresh-from-Poland emigre desperate for the flavors of home. I am the great-granddaughter of an immigrant who has been to Poland exactly once -- and spoke the language so badly that I ordered, with great confidence, a mountain of pierogi.

That Kosciusko guy, by the way? Not a mustard-maker, not involved in any sort of food-related industry. He was an 18th-century military commander in his native Poland and the fledgling United States. Fortified Philadelphia in 1776, built a bunch of forts along the Canadian border, went home to defend Poland from the Russians in 1789. Didn't know a damn thing about mustard.

Those Germans, though, they know from mustard. I bet this German mustard is going to be fabulously delicious on my turkey sandwich.

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