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A Museum Dedicated To...Mustard?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 1, 2024 3:03 am

A Museum Dedicated To...Mustard?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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January 1, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, find out how Barry Levinson went from arguing cases in front of the Supreme Court to operating the largest museum dedicated to mustard in the world.

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Learn more and get details at toyota.com slash beyond zero Toyota. Let's go places. This is our American stories and our next story is about a condiment. All of us know and use mustard in Middleton, Wisconsin. There's a museum dedicated to this stuff. Here to tell the story is the founder of that museum, Barry Levinson. Take it away, Barry. I don't know if you know, according to the National Condiment Research Council annual report, ketchup is now the leading cause of childhood stupidity in America.

Just telling you. Hi, my name is Barry Levinson and I am the founder and curator of the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin. And this was not what I planned on doing when I was much younger. I actually was a lawyer at one time.

I was head of the criminal appeals division for the state of Wisconsin. But the curse that I had upon me was that I am originally from Massachusetts, which means, of course, I am a diehard Red Sox fan. I grew up having my heart broken year after year. 1967, they made it to the World Series. I remember it clearly. They lost in seven games. 1975, they also went to the World Series, lost in seven games. Then came 1986. And at the time I was here in Wisconsin doing criminal appellate work and the Red Sox were in the World Series.

And I told my friends, this is the year. There's no doubt that they had Roger Clemens. They had, oh my gosh, I think they must have had, they had some great players then. And it was game six. The Red Sox were ahead by two runs. Victory seemed assured, but of course they lost.

One thing led to another. I was devastated, but there was still game seven and game seven came and of course they lost. I was so depressed. I couldn't sleep. So I went to an all-night grocery store, an all-night supermarket, just to walk. And I had no idea why I was there.

It was 2.30 in the morning and I was pushing an empty cart up and down the aisle. Suddenly I was in front of the condiments. I remember going past the pickles and the olives, the relishes, the mayonnaises, the ketchups, nothing. I was in front of the Mustards and I heard a voice that said, if you collect us, they will come. That's how I began my journey collecting jars of mustard. I think that night or that morning, I think I bought about 10 or 11 different mustards. I remember, I think I bought French's mustard. I definitely, I think the first one was Plachman's mustard. There were, you know, maybe 10 or 11 that I got. And I said, I'll never be lonely again because I will meet up with all the other mustard collectors in the world.

Little did I know there weren't any, but that didn't deter me. So that's when I began collecting jars of mustard. It was 1986, but I still had a little bit of common sense. So I didn't quit my job because I figured I needed another sign and I got it.

I got another sign about six months later. It was actually April 20th, 1987. I was arguing a case at the United States Supreme Court.

You could look it up, Griffin versus Wisconsin. And on the way over to the court, leaving the, my room at the Hyatt, I saw a discarded room service tray and on it was a little jar of mustard and it was unopened. And I saw it and I said, aha, I don't recognize it. And I'm thinking, okay, would it be theft for me to take this jar of mustard that could be reused by the hotel, but one which the hotel was not really expecting to get back? So I think I did what every good lawyer would have done. I took it, right? And I brought it with me to the United States Supreme Court and argued that case with that jar of mustard in my left pants pocket. This was a case that all of my colleagues said, there's no way you're going to win this.

Well, I won five to four. I'm sure that was the mustard that made a difference. And it was at that time that I knew I needed to plot and plan my exit from, from law. And one day I would found the National Mustard Museum, which I did. And it opened in, let's see, would have been April of 1992.

And it's been growing ever since. And we have over 6,000 different mustards. We have a lot of, I think, pieces of great mustard art, old mustard tins, old mustard pots, old mustard advertisements, because mustard goes back centuries. And if you know that mustard before antibiotics and aspirin was probably the most popular prescribed medicine that doctors used. And I think if you're looking for the origin of what we know as mustard, go back to about the 12th or 13th century, where you will find the monks of the old Burgundian town of Dijon.

Get it? Dijon? But the monks were making what we know as mustard.

Curiously, there are no Dijon factories within the city limits of Dijon. One of the things we do at the Mustard Museum is we coordinate the international worldwide mustard competition. It's held every year. We've been doing it for about 20 years. And mustards arrive from all over the world, because mustard is universal.

It's something that almost every culture knows about and uses. And every year, there are about 300 different mustards that are judged blind in 17 different categories, because that's the beauty of mustard. There's sweet mustards, there's Dijon mustards, there's grainy mustards, there's herb mustards, there's fruit mustards, there's exotic mustards. There's a specific category for deli mustards. And we taste those with the pastrami. There's so many different flavors, curry mustards. We have tasted chocolate mustards. That's, I think, the beauty of it.

And you can find different uses, of course, for all of them. Now, one of the things, though, that we have found here in the US is that it's sometimes difficult to get children to eat mustard. And in France, it has never been a problem. Children grow up eating good, strong mustard. But I don't know if it's this thing about people just like sweet, mild things.

That's a real problem. And probably the number one selling condiment is salsa. Ketchup, I think, comes in number two. Mustard. And of course, you have to remember, a serving of mustard, it doesn't take a lot of mustard to give a lot of flavor.

So you're not going to need as much. I mean, you need a lot more ketchup. And I don't understand why here in this country people insist on dipping French fries in ketchup. It makes no sense. And there are people who, believe it or not, will put mayonnaise on a corned beef or pastrami sandwich.

And that to me should be illegal. Also, people who put ketchup on hot dogs and bratwurst, no, you just don't do that. For example, in Chicago, which is famous for the Chicago hot dog, which has yellow mustard, not brown mustard, neon green relish, sport peppers, celery salt, maybe a little wedge of tomato, a pickle. It's really one of the great taste treats of Chicago.

There are many hot dog stands in Chicago. If you go into them and you ask for ketchup, they will refuse to serve you. Good for them.

Good for them. One of the things that we've done or that I've done is I've written a children's book called Mustard on a Pickle. And it's about a little boy who loves mustard so much that he puts it on everything. I'll give you a little taste of it. Is that okay?

Okay. I like mustard on my toast. I like mustard on a roast. But what I really like the most is mustard dribbled on a ghost. Can you be trusted without mustard? I don't think so. You would stink so.

Don't get flustered. Eat your mustard. I like mustard on a pickle. I would even pay a nickel for just a teeny tiny squirt of mustard on my uncle's shirt. Everything tastes good with mustard, even plums and frozen custard. I like mustard in the air and mustard at the county fair, putting Dijon on a bun, slurping yellow in the sun. That's mustard on a pickle. So this is what I do.

It's just kind of an exciting thing to do. And I love just being at the museum with all my mustards. And what a great piece of work by Monty Montgomery, our producer from Hillsdale College, by the way, a graduate of Hillsdale College, and finds such great quirky stories for us.

My goodness, this was a really good one. From going and arguing cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, and by the way, attributing a winning argument to the mustard in his pocket, to founding the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin. We're talking about Barry Levinson, and we thank him for telling his story about his love affair with mustard. By the way, my mom was a huge collector of these old purses made of metal, and they were beautiful, and she collected thousands of them. And we've done the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, a mother and daughter combo who went around the country finding salt and pepper shaker combos.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-01 04:32:36 / 2024-01-01 04:38:23 / 6

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