Now I have a garden, people will know, it’s not for lack of having written and repeated it in these columns where I am welcomed. So I acquired a barbecue, the first of my life, but here it seems essential, the supermarkets all have an entire section devoted to them, towards the entrance, and on weekends when it is beautiful it smells of embers and meat grilling in the streets of my little town.
I’m planning on char-grilling like my dad did pork chops slathered in mustard, sprinkled with sage leaves, he was utterly incompetent in the kitchen except for that. He put on his bare chest, slipped a cloth into his belt by way of an apron, and in the full sun lit the fire, newspaper, kindling, medium wood, in a circle of blackened stones on which he placed the grid loaded with his pork chops with mustard. My father was absolutely indifferent to the bite of the sun, his skin turned brown quickly and protected him from everything. It smelled good, it’s one of the smells of my childhood, and when I had a garden, I wanted to find it, do like him except that I have a barbecue, an apron, and I try to stay shade, I didn’t inherit her ultraviolet-proof skin.
But at the supermarket, hell! between ketchup, mayonnaise and pickles, a hole. On four rays and one meter wide, the void. In the endlessly replenished abundance of supermarkets, a hole is seen like a missing tooth, it’s disturbing like the ravine that runs along a winding mountain road. A notice printed on an A4 sheet indicated a shortage of mustard, and “our teams are doing everything they can to find new suppliers”, decorated with a small jar of mustard to look pretty, to pass the shortage with a smile. And the next day, the same. Several days later, the same thing. Elsewhere, no better. I had to face the facts, there was a mustard crisis.
Is there sunflower oil in mustard? Because the oil department is already damaged, Ukraine was the world’s largest producer, the fields are roasting under the bombs. Under the empty shelf we read the same poster stating that the staff is struggling to find it. But no, it’s not because it’s yellow that there is mustard, it’s mustard seeds and verjuice, some herbs if necessary, nothing more. But then, why the crisis? France, whose mustard is an emblem of its cuisine, only produces a third of its needs, the rest is bought in Canada, where vast fields of mustard extend into the gloomy plains of Saskatchewan; I’m not sure if it’s there, but I’m delighted to write for the first time in my life this beautiful name of Saskatchewan. Last summer, Western Canada was crushed by a heat dome that sent temperatures up to 50°C, everything was roasting, burning, and the harvest dropped from the usual 170,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes , there was not for everyone. This is to be compared to the 12,000 tonnes produced in France. Why not look elsewhere? The second producer is Russia, infrequent, and the third Ukraine, devastated. So small seeds with a pungent taste, we lack them all over the planet.
The planet is falling apart. Until a few months ago everything was more or less working, in any case we didn’t notice anything in our gardens and our supermarkets. And there suddenly everything collapses, paper, petrol, gas, sunflower oil and then now mustard, hit by the climate crisis and the geopolitical crisis. No way to live as before, no way to recreate the flavor of the pork chops with mustard that my father was quietly grilling, leaning over his circle of stones. There is no longer any way to continue our merry way in a happy abundance, the one in which we grew up, the one in which we lived, the one which is now marking time in the face of the political, social and climatic crises which are devastating our world. Mustard isn’t much, but you never thought you’d run out of it. To consider this little seed is to put your finger on what’s wrong and from which you were protected until then. I think I’m going to turn to sardines, to the chagrin of my neighbors. And I’m just learning that the Mediterranean only produces very small ones. What did I say…