Wednesday, 24 March 2010
The natural habitat of Tierenteyn mustard
We have been away for a long weekend to the Low Countries. There were several excuses for going - getting away together, visiting friends, etc, but the most pressing reason was that we were getting low on Tierenteyn mustard. This is more than just a condiment, being not far from addictive: a dab at the back of the mouth sends the most remarkable sensations flaring upwards through the nose and apparently the brain, rather as I imagine a rush of cocaine does, and one just wants more.
The only problem is that this wonderful substance is only available from the shop of Veuve Tierenteyn-Verlent, in the Groentenmarkt, Ghent, where it is dispensed by hand from a vat at the back of the shop, into containers of whatever size one requires. It has no preservatives, so needs to be consumed fresh (though it lasts a while in the fridge, and freezes well) and is therefore only sold from the shop. In consequence a trip to Ghent every now and then is a necessity, either in person or by proxy.
Apart from the visit to the Mostaard Fabriek, Ghent has numerous attractions, notably of course the Lams Gods, the great altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck in Sint Baaf's Cathedral (in which, according to the guidebook, 42 species of plant are identifiable, with Lilium candidum, Iris germanica and Paeonia mascula being conspicuous). But the thing I enjoy most is a visit to the Cafe den Turk, which dates to 1228 and somehow eludes a ban on smoking in its dingy interior, where alongside the beer (our choice was Delirium Tremens, served in glasses decorated with pink elephants) one is served dry sausages and a dish of Tierenteyn mustard to dip them in. Horribly unhealthy, but absolutely delicious.