4/22/2010

Meteorites Miss Mustard Museum

Meteorite hunting has gripped southern Wisconsin and northern Iowa. It seems the meteor that zipped across the sky lighting up people's hopes for UFO sightings on April 14, broke apart over the 2 counties bordering the Iowa-Wisconsin line. School children have been out hunting them, one girl having sold her fist-sized meteorite for $1,000 and Discovery Channel folks filming documentaries on local farms. I grew up just a few miles away from a meteor crater, known as the Weaubleau-Osceola Meteor, but missed it's falling to earth by about 300 millions years or so. That one, whose crater is about 11 miles wide can be seen with Google Earth, and from outer space, (look in West-Central Missouri near the Osage River) still holds fascination for rock people. But the meteorites, which are pieces of meteors, fell in Wisconsin and have more people out hunting for them than you'd find looking for morel mushrooms (which aren't up yet, according to locals).

Before leaving Chicago, I made a stop at Ikea. I have great fun in Ikea and go there when Josh isn't traveling with me. He calls Ikea a "Danish Wal-Mart" and says their offerings are cheap and poorly made. I agree, especially in the electronics area. We've had several lamps from there that either didn't work, had parts missing, or replacements could only be had from Denmark. But I like the stylishness of their hardware and kitchen items and don't miss an opportunity to spend a few hours looking and shopping (and yes, I bought another lamp - I buy lottery tickets, too). It takes hours of walking to see an entire store.

Two nights ago I drove to Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, from the Chicago area to spend the night and be up early the next morning to visit the famous National Mustard Museum. A Google search said it was in Mt. Horeb, the motel owner where I stayed verified it was just downtown from the motel. So for the evening I went out hunting for a dinner restaurant and found the Grumpy Troll, which sounded like my kind of place. Not that I've ever been called grumpy, but I can appreciate good grumpiness when I find it. It was a good choice, having a wonderfully grumpy-descriptive menu and about a dozen kinds of beers and ales from their micro-brewery. (It made me think of the Grumpy Gardener, aka Steve Bender at Southern Living, who is truly, grumpy most of the time and his grumpiness flies well on his blog, check it out if you haven't yet; tell him I sent you, it'll make him even grumpier). I tried one made with jalapeno peppers but opted for something called, "Bob's Better Beer" or something like that.

The following morning I got up, repacked the truck to make room for possible plants at a nursery I'd passed, and headed out looking for the famous National Mustard Museum. After lots of searching and asking, I found the museum had moved. Not just down the block, but to the outskirts of Madison, in Middleton. I headed that way, inquiring as I went if anyone knew where the museum had moved. All in all, a day, a night and many hours later, I finally found the elusive National Mustard Museum. I admit I was a bit underwhelmed. It looked like just another tourist store, filled with mustard. Evidently they've not been there very long, a few months. With some snooping around I found a little arrow pointing to the basement and the museum. I brightened some, at finding there was, after all an actual museum of mustards, not just a sales area.

I found there were antique mustard containers, categorized by state and country. I found several mustards that were made in my state of Missouri, a selection from Arkansas and lots of mustards from Wisconsin, and every other state, too. There were several displays of antique mustard advertising art from the '20s and up, some of which was quite interesting.

When I returned upstairs and went back to browsing the mustards, I saw that many of the recent Napa Valley Mustard competition winners were displayed. About then, the two ladies who were running the museum offered me some tastes and help. For the next 20 minutes or so, we had a fine and amusing mustard tasting. Did you know you can get a good, full-bodied whole seed mustard with bleu cheese? It is excellent. I got one with shallots, too, and one called, "Cowboy Mustard" and another by the same company that is, "Cowboy with a Kick" and it lives up to its name.  All in all I came away from the National Mustard Museum glad I'd spent so much time trying to find it, the people were quite nice, they have thousands of kinds of mustards and there are cautions throughout the store about how eating catsup instead of mustard can lead to everything from obesity to stupidity in children.

Next door to the Museum, is the Hubbard Street Diner and having not had lunch yet at 3:00 in the afternoon, I decided to test out the food. I was very glad I did, because they offer good, old fashioned diner hamburgers, and are known for their pies. I have no idea how many kids of pie, all  homemade, they offer. I asked about the difference between their French silk pie and the Mississippi mud. What I discovered (I hope my doctor doesn't read my blog or I'll get a scolding, because I've been bad) is that Mississippi mud, in the South, would be called a baked fudge pie. Oh my, oh my. To eat this, I gave up food for the rest of the day and will live on salads for awhile. But it was worth it. Rich, almost chewy baked fudge filling with real whipped cream, not sweet (to offset the filling, which probably was nothing more than butter, sugar and cocoa). That alone was worth the day and a half it took to find the Mustard Museum. Unfortunately the Diner doesn't offer any of the great mustards from next door.

Today I'm heading out to see some of Madison and tomorrow my Herb Society hosts will show me more of what this interesting city has to offer. It's still chilly here at night, and I've been bringing my plants inside each evening. I have some bay rum and allspice I've been saving for the "Eat Your Landscape" program at the Olbrich Botanic Garden on Saturday. I'm sure the plants are tired of being moved back and forth. But, just like they were pets, I give them a few hours of sunlight each day, some water and care. Right now they're sitting on the windowsill of my room at the Ruby Marie Hotel, enjoying the view of Lake Mendota.

I am in town for work and look forward to that, but like Matthew Morrison, the actor in Glee, I want to do it all!

2 comments:

Steven Anthony said...

jeepers that pie looks awesome. I wonder if we were in chicago at the same time...I took the train in a couple times last week;)

Grumpy Gardener said...

There's a museum for everything, isn't there? I'm not suprised the mustard museum is in Wisconsin. By and large, I'd say Northerners love mustard and Southerners love ketchup. I understand that in Chicago, you can't get anything but mustard on a hot dog. Mustard bigots!