When I was a very small person, no more than kitchen table high, I liked nothing better than exploring places I was not supposed to go. This is natural human behaviour and not to be condemned. When adults do it, they end up climbing Everest or canoeing the Amazon or cycling across the Sahara. These things tend to be viewed positively. When children do it there is shouting and waving of arms and sometimes bed without supper. It’s oppression, I tell you, of the most invidious kind.
There are times, however, when it turns out that adults actually know what they are talking about. I was as shocked as you to learn this, but the lesson stayed with me for a long time.
“Don’t go in the cupboard!” they warned me.
It was a red rag to a bull, as the saying goes, and the first chance I got I headed into the kitchen to ransack said cupboards and have adventure. I rarely got the door open before one of the adults swooped upon me like a bird of prey, scooped me up and whisked me away to play with the toys again. Toys, pah! I knew them and their shininess and squishiness and bright colours. They were old news.
The cupboards enticed me, their dark secrets just waiting to be uncovered. They must be delicious to be so closely guarded.
“Come and play, EBL,” they whispered to me. “We have treats and surprises for you. Come and play.”
One fine day, one memorable day, I slipped past the guards and shimmied into the kitchen undetected, like a miniature ninja. That cupboard door was open in a moment and I had access to the contents therein.
Where to start? Casserole dishes and pyrex bowls were not as exciting as I had hoped, but there was a pretty little tin in bright yellow. It was surprisingly easy to pull the lid off. Inside was powder, bright yellow like the tin. Anything that pretty just had to be a treat! I dipped my finger in and scooped out a mound, which I put into my expectant mouth.
Well. That was a surprise.
Have you ever tasted a mouthful of Colmans English Mustard Powder?
Can I suggest you don’t bother trying? There may, for all I know, be a website for people who enjoy that particular kind of pain, lickmymustard.com perhaps. I’m not a member.
You may imagine the shrieking and screaming and yelling. You may, if your imagination is any good, wish to cover your ears at this point. Most of the noise was mine but some of it was my mother’s. My father got me water to drink and my grandmother wiped my face and gave me a cuddle. For some reason they all started laughing once I had the water and was merely whimpering in exquisite agony. Families…
I didn’t eat mustard again until after I was married to Sigoth, twenty years later. It’s marvellous stuff, but best kept in a high cupboard, I think you’ll find.