The Mustard Museum: Passion For A Condiment

Visitors to the National Mustard Museum view displays of mustard-related art i i

hide captionVisitors to the National Mustard Museum view displays of mustard-related art.

National Mustard Museum
Visitors to the National Mustard Museum view displays of mustard-related art

Visitors to the National Mustard Museum view displays of mustard-related art.

National Mustard Museum

Summer is full of distinctive flavors, but one condiment stands above them all: mustard. Hot dogs just aren't the same without it. And in Wisconsin, there's a museum devoted to the simple spread.

Barry Levenson, curator and CMO — "chief mustard officer" — of the National Mustard Museum, says a fit of despair led him to create the museum in 1986.

"My beloved Boston Red Sox lost the World Series," he says. "Decided I need a hobby to get over my depression. That's the morning I began collecting jars of mustard."

And Levenson, a lawyer by trade, quickly saw his hobby turn into an obsession.

"I argued a case at the U.S. Supreme Court," he says. "On my way to the court, I saw this little jar of mustard on a discarded room-service tray. I didn't have time to go back to my room. So I brought it with me and argued — and I had a jar of mustard in my pocket."

Container for Duncan Hines brand ground mustard. i i

hide captionMustards by Duncan Hines (above) and Nonesuch (below).

National Mustard Museum
Container for Duncan Hines brand ground mustard.

Mustards by Duncan Hines (above) and Nonesuch (below).

National Mustard Museum

He won that case, by the way.

A pot of McNeil and Higgins' Nonesuch Mustard. i i
National Mustard Museum
A pot of McNeil and Higgins' Nonesuch Mustard.
National Mustard Museum

Now Levenson dedicates his time to collecting condiments professionally. His collection has grown to more than 5,000 mustards from around the globe — everything from French stone-ground to French's Classic Yellow.

They're all on display at the National Mustard Museum, in Middleton, Wis., which is gearing up to celebrate National Mustard Day, on Aug. 7 — a Saturday, for anyone considering a cookout.

But that's not all: The museum also doubles as an institute of higher learning.

"It is the hallowed campus of the Mustard College," Levenson says, "which everyone knows as Poupon U."

And while you can't take any classes for academic credit at Poupon U — they do have a nifty fight song:

On our hot dogs, on our bratwurst, mustard is so cool.

Never mayo, never ketchup; they're against the rules.

Gleaming gold and mellow yellow; smooth, rough, sweet and hot,

Fight, POUPON U! We'll fight and eat some lunch.

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