Bad science

My body has given me ample signals to take it easy, and thus, today, starts a 10 day stretch of sleeping in and chilling. That is, after I have done my Christerklaas rhymes and wrappings. This year there is little sign of Christmas in our house: no tree, no wreaths, and no candles. We will celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Easthampton this year, so no need to decorate our home.

The only signs of Christmas are the Christmas cards that people sent us every year and Axel repeating his intentions about our Christmas cards for 2015. This is his job, as I have never quite understood the idea of Christmas cards, especially those with scenes of winter, red birds and Christmas trees, or those with Peace and Love messages. I do like the ones with family pictures, especially from those we don’t see very often or families that are expanding very fast and we are way behind, the last grandchild no longer being the last. Now that we have Facebook we don’t need these cards anymore as a means of ‘staying in touch.’

My job at Christmas is making mustard. It has been for the last few decades. It is a tradition that started with finding a book in the (West Newbury) library called ‘Better than Store Bought.’ I was intrigued by the mustard recipes and tried one, then another, etc. Over all these years the mustard has never come out bad, though I have simplified my operation. I now make only one or two types (tarragon/white wine and red wine/garlic and pepper). The labels, which I make without assistance from the graphic designers in my family, are also simplified and simply state that inside is Sylvia’s Christmas mustard.

But this year the red wine mustard came out bad. It tasted metallic. I threw several pounds of it out. I had already made the white wine mustard which came out nice, as it always does. I played the scientist, reviewing all the variables in a failed experiment. The ingredients in common with the white wine mustard could not be the culprits, which left the red wine vinegar (I threw out a whole gallon, prematurely). I started with better quality red wine vinegar, fresh garlic, freshly ground black pepper and a reasonable good wine and made a new batch. It still came out bad. I would never be a good scientist because I gave up.

I finished listening to Lisa Randall’s book about Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs and learned what real science is about. I understood about 20% of the book and expanded my time horizon to about 30 billion years which made me more patient with the present. I also appreciated that scientists never give up. But this mustard scientist is not cut from the same cloth.

And so this year’s mustard will be a ‘limited edition’ mustard. I have one last hypothesis, could it be the seeds? Are not all mustard seeds alike?  The seeds for the white wine mustard had a different source than the seeds I used in the two failed batches. Maybe I should start growing my own. Merry Christmas!

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December 2015
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