I am in a major first romance. I am 36 years old: a stock-taking point in life. A point at which you begin to understand the broad contours of the things you will and will not have: the career as it has taken shape, the dreams as they have fallen away, the places you have visited but will probably never see again. I have time, I know this. But I don’t have all of the time. I don’t have the forever time of childhood, or the joking—when will she grow up?—time of teenage years. I don’t even have the experimental stretch that is so much the residue and the requirement of being in your twenties, or even the early thirties.


No—36 is something else entirely. This midpoint is about reckoning and decision-making. So many friends are already married. Some have babies. A few have known terrible illness. A few have not survived. We’re no longer finding out who we are, we pretty much know. We’re finding out what we’re going to do about it. And, for the most part, we’re trying to do it.


So naturally I’m a bit shy to admit the ferocity of this romance or its untrammeled, total way of taking hold of me. But surely this love—like all loves—must be welcomed and celebrated. Who is to say which love will be your last? Why be so stingy? Take what comes and be glad in the face of a humbling force.


Humbling indeed, I thought the other day. I was angling a knife deep into the hard-bodied places of my love’s interior. I’m not guilty of homicide. This is not some crazed organ extraction for extra cash (though I have contemplated the possible if ebbing value of my own second kidney). This is, instead, a major, sustained affair with a mustard that has, safely, easily, crossed the threshold from loose fling to holy union and the product itself, forgive me, resides now in the temple of the heart that will and forever keep safe the true passions of this life. Let us open our respective hatches. I find mine stashed full of V. Sattui Napa Valley Smoky Mustard.


I’ve never wanted to be buried but cremated, my ashes spread somewhere. I have thought about a deep water with a view to the sky. But the fact of this mustard is such that I wonder, quietly, about a possible burial with just a few judicious jars stashed to the left and right of my midsection, with or without that sold kidney. I don’t see the harm. I know nothing of what goes on within these many rectangular boxes we keep plunging into the ground, of what my needs might be over there. But I feel an amount of Smoky Mustard—no other mustard, just Smoky Mustard—would put me in good stead for the long haul.


Barring that utility, it is my understanding that there are some real creepers down there. Let them have at it—and at me—in a way that is equally if slavishly devoted to and aided by Smokey Mustard. Let them dive in with their legs, their claws and antennae, only to find how quickly—without even meaning to—they will be scraping that glass bottom, resorting to rations, holding off. This is a mustard of consequence.


Recently I ran out of Smoky Mustard. I scraped the jar until it would truly yield nothing more than the empty ring of knife on glass. I rinsed the jar and kept it for a while. I put it up on the windowsill in my kitchen. I have other mustards (that is all that the rest of the mustard market will ever be to me now: “other mustards.”) I use them. Sure. We are on good terms, their label-moulting bottles and jars tucked haphazardly between a courage-inducing set of anchovies from Chinatown and the bars of chocolate I break off and eat standing in my underwear at the refrigerator door.


But this mustard—its many-angled jar acquired at the source and consumed nearly in its entirety on the spot, this mustard that required, then, an immediate return from the parking lot straight back into the store, this mustard that begs reserves: this mustard has been gone for some time. It has not been an easy time.


So I had an idea. Hey! The internet! And holy yes, Smoky Mustard is online. Bless this world. Bless its many screens and the buttons that make it go. Bless these chances to acquire something immediately, that was once so far away.


I ordered what I needed. And I needed a lot. Bring me your jars, your boxes of jars. Bring me your need for credit card verification codes and bring me your staff members who will do what they will and must with that information. Then bring me, again, your jars. Your many jars.


Click, send, thanks. And just like that another transaction transpires.


No, it was not enough. I hadn’t paid sufficient homage. I felt and feel—it is a muddle of past and present tenses as all the big commitments are—the need to give back. Anytime anyone talks about giving back, they do not really mean ‘give back’. They mean ‘Smoky Mustard’. Finally, the two sentiments can meet.


Let me pause here to tell you more about the flavors of Smoky Mustard. Let me share with you the fact that Smoky Mustard tastes powerfully of hickory tannins and that it is mournful. Smoky Mustard has memories and is not afraid of those memories. Somewhere in the bottle and the night it looks back at those memories with real tears and an honest affection. This mustard takes stock. This mustard may well also be 36 and thinking back to the jovial, oil-oaked porch of the house my grandparents never had, where they hosted large American cookouts beneath Old Glory in the home they never owned.


There are friends and family members there I’ve never known. Good people of ample appetite and strong constitution, people who stand up for what is right but who are, equally, unafraid of being challenged: people who both know something of changing their minds and of doing so with grace. People who you love and who love you eagerly, if a bit wistfully. People who remember your first steps. People who are proud of who you have become and who are hopeful, openly, of who you might yet be.


These people, like all people, are hungry. They talk and laugh. They pour wine and water for each other and, too, equally, they reach for Smoky Mustard. They spread it over shanks, over lardo. They spread it over Saltine crackers if need be. They spread it over their bare fingers and lick. They are having a good time. You are having a good time with them. What matters in this scene is not your childhood or your grandparents or even anyone, specifically, anyone at all. What matters is Smoky Mustard.


I am not alone. Smoky Mustard has a comments section on the V. Sattui website, every single one a five star. I can’t recall ever seeing that before. I don’t know of another product that has so successfully evaded the snark of the tight, difficult attitudes we see everyday online. Let me clarify here that I am in no way connected to or otherwise in the pay of the V. Sattui family or its employees. But I would love to be. Especially if that payment could come in regular installments of Smoky Mustard. Here we go:


the saddest day of my life is when i flew back to nyc and discovered i had left a bottle of this in my hotel room fridge in san fran. ugh- what a tearjerker. seriously- my fiancé and i bought some of this mustard at the winery and then bought some french bread and some cheese and meat- and devoured it all on site. i went back and bought two more bottles of this mustard immediately. i’m out now, so had to refill my fridge. secret tip- sauté some mushrooms and garlic- add two teaspoons of this along with a tablespoon of whisky- it will bring your fiancé to her knees. –eric


YUM!! Loved it, would by it by the case if we could. Bought a jar while on holidays and didn’t open it until we got home to Canada. Loved it, got friends to by us more when they went to Napa Valley. Now were out and they don’t deliver to Canada. –Michele


We were at V. Sattui on Friday (holiday weekend) – it was a zoo – that part I didn’t like. I kind of got chewed out by the cheese lady who was doing the demo on cheese, but thankfully, I was able to sneak in more than a few dips of the sample pretzels into this absolutely amazing mustard and it was an OMG experience. I am not a huge mustard fan, but I have to say that I could eat this stuff solo as a dip (I’ve been doing that ever since we got home) – it’s incredible! I don’t know what they do to the stuff, but it’s the most amazing mustard I’ve ever eaten! i will definitely be bookmarking this page and ordering copious amounts, first for myself but also for friends and family!—Margo


My own message:

We can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s really an unbeatable mustard—never thought I’d type that phrase in my life but there it is. We have kept an empty jar in homage.


And then, like so many things we do both online and off, I went on to other things. I wrote about genocide and finished a new piece on mental illness. There have been some newer, darker storms and glories, both, in the galaxy of 36. I did not forget about Smoky Mustard—this is not the mustard of forgetting. But I laid it to a sidetrack that still runs, well oiled and regular if not via the main station, through of my mind.


Then the other day I got an email titled: “Product Review Email.”


God I love Smoky Mustard. I love that direct, forceful title. I love that the people behind Smoky Mustard make no hash of the matter, no cutesy mincing. They go about the business of keeping me in the loop. They’re not busting PR chops; they’re busy and they’ve got Smoky Mustard to make. Another customer had provided a review, a new voice had joined the mix, and devotees far and wide were alerted to the matter. Boom. Hence: “Product Review Email”.


When I realized what this email was, I welcomed it as I have the news of a friend’s baby and photo: fresh out the womb, still gummed with birthing juices. I feted this message as I have the shots of newlyweds and other familiar, shared joys of this fleeting life:


We are close to running out as I write this and now I’ve discovered the beauty of ordering more on-line to save us the hassle of just making a trip with two small kids just for replenishing our mustard reserves (although it is always wonderful to visit Napa). I am so glad the winery delivers in the USA. I feel terrible for Michele above who mentioned they do not deliver to Canada. We would most definitely recommend you try this mustard and then open a tab with V. Sattui as you will want to keep your refrigerator stocked with in until the end of time.