French’s Spicy Brown Mustard

I threw up at a Tastee-Freez when I was 6 or so. My family would sometimes go there after Sunday night church. That’s right: On Sundays, there were services in the morning and in the evening, and we went to both, presumably because the internet hadn’t been invented yet and we were hard up for entertainment.

On the night in question, I must have eaten something topped with mustard—there were rivulets of bright yellow running through the up-chucked chunks.

I refused to eat mustard for years after that.

My most vivid and therefore most horrifying memories of vomiting involve doing it in public or being confronted with the sight of foods that look too similar to what they looked like before going down. There’s a shock of recognition and betrayal in seeing those inadequately chewed, undigested bits again. It’s like, Et tu, crudité?

The Tastee-Freez mustard vom met both criteria for being memorable: It happened in public and contained a recognizable foodstuff. The same can be said of the chive-speckled mess I threw up onto the floor of a Taco Bell in Harrison, Arkansas, on the drive to my grandparents’ house when I was around 10. And the rainbow-colored slurry I hurled onto a Chicago sidewalk one morning after drinking way too many alcoholic fruit slushies the night before at Sidetrack.

Does it sound like I throw up a lot? I’m prone to motion sickness and can’t hold my liquor—what do you expect?

I did eventually return to mustard. At some point, in fact, it surpassed mayonnaise to become my second-favorite condiment.

Ketchup has never had any real competition for the top spot, despite my nostalgic fondness for Miracle Whip, mayo’s tangier, trashier cousin. My mom used to put ketchup and Miracle Whip on hot dogs—a combo, I have since learned, that strikes you coastal elites as unsophisticated. Well, la-di-da.

That said (and, really, how can you refute an argument as strong as la-di-da?), I don’t think it’s fair to fault people for preferring fancy foods, either. In 2009, Fox News personalities, led by Sean Hannity, criticized Pres. Barack Obama for ordering a hamburger topped with Dijon mustard. This was taken to signify that Obama was some hoity-toity snoot who probably kept Grey Poupon in the glove compartment of his Rolls-Royce like in that classic commercial. Whereas everyone knows that real Americans slather their burgers with ketchup and, I don’t know, bald eagle semen?

Don’t get me wrong. As a convert to vegetarianism, I definitely judge the dietary choices of others, but for moral reasons, never class or regional differences. After all, every piece of food winds up as poo—the great leveler.

Okay, well, not every piece of food. If it’s consumed by me during a curvy road trip, it has a good chance of becoming barf.

And now you know why I wouldn’t keep Grey Poupon in the glove compartment of my Rolls-Royce even if I had one.

Boy, would I have spoiled the end of that commercial.

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