I like mustard. Not just with sausages and beef but with chicken, pork and lamb; I like it on a cheese sandwich and especially with roast potatoes. My preference is English mustard, the bright yellow stuff, none of the fancy whole-grain-with-whiskey stuff. My real preference is making up dried mustard with water so that it really knocks you out but it is possible to waste a lot that way because you don’t always know if you are going to be eating something that goes with mustard. My favourite mustard, without a doubt, is Colman’s mustard. I was brought up on it; my Dad used lashings of it. You know what to expect with Colman’s mustard and supermarket own brands are definitely not the same.
Jeremiah Colman started his flour and mustard business in 1814, just outside of Norwich. Colman’s were renown as good employers – setting up a school for their employee’s children, providing company housing and giving sickness benefit to staff. They also entered into good contracts with their local producers and some of their mustard seed producers are fifth generation growers. They still pride themselves on the fact that 60% of mustard seed is grown locally and claim that all mint, apple and white mustard seeds that they use are grown in UK.
Not only famous for their mustard, Colman’s are also famous for their iconic logo and advertising posters. Colman’s set up a shop in the Art Deco Arcade in Norwich as a place to sell mustard but also to sell related publicity artefacts, to tell the story of Colman’s as a kind of small museum. This has now become a significant part of the tourist industry in Norwich. The shop is laid out as a traditional grocers store. This is a great place for a mustard, and tea towel, lover. I do have three Colman’s mustard tea towels; the first is a bit historical, showing scenes from the past including Jeremiah Colman; the second is the bull’s head logo and the third, the iconic ostrich. The Bull’s Head Trade Mark was an advertising poster for many years and was also one of those metal signs that are reproduced these days. @MrTimDunn has often said that I am always going on about the fact that posters that appear on Twitter would make good tea towels. This is, exactly, why; Colman’s have seen the value of their old advertising posters and have made them into tea towels. The ostrich was part of Colman’s advertising for many years. It is actually a great tea towel because it is so distinctive with the navy blue background but is also very good quality linen. My question would be: how does it aid digestion? What the heck, it’s still good.
Notwithstanding the museum, the real memories associated with this tea towel are about the fact that I decided to have one of my Christmas Shopping Weekends in Norwich, a place that I had not been to before but thought it might come up with some interesting Christmas gifts (and it did). We stayed in the Swallow Hotel in the centre of Norwich, by the river. Saturday had been a long hard shopping day; I felt I had walked miles and by the time we got back to the hotel we didn’t feel like going out for a meal. Why not have room service? Fortunately it was an enormous room with a dining table. We looked at the menu and thought we ought to have something we could eat mustard with. What about a beef salad? I’m always a bit sceptical about salads when eating out. Will it just be a few old lettuce leaves? To make sure we had enough to eat, we ordered chips as well. I shouldn’t have been worried. This was the best salad I have ever had. The actual salad was magnificent, not covered in dressing, all fresh, huge. The beef was rare and there was loads of it and a magnificent bowl of chips. I can see it now. Fabulous. That year a lot of people got gifts associated with mustard and Colman’s but no one will have had such an incredible salad and as I use the tea towel I can almost taste it.
Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum