A few years ago, my sister was a much more frequent traveller than I. She offered me this piece of advice when I was flying home to Sydney one evening after visiting her in London.
"Just check in at the very last minute, if you get there early, you'll just end up at the back of a long queue."
So we took our time getting there perhaps one and a half hours before take off. I kept worrying but since she had travelled that very route numerous times, she reassured me that my anxiety was unfounded. We got to the airport to check in and there was no queue for my flight. We managed to ask one man from the airline where we should check in.
"You're on the Sydney flight?" he said looking at my ticket in alarm. "You'd better check in right now and run to the gate" he said grabbing my bags and putting them on the conveyor belt of the nearest check in. I looked at my sister and even she started to look alarmed.
"Your bags are overweight" the airline representative said to me and offered me the chance to pay a ludicrously high rate for the extra kilos or I could reshuffle my bag and she would kindly look the other way at my oversized carry on.
I knew the weight culprits immediately. It was my stash of French and English jams and mustards. I had bought far too many of them, all in glass jars or ceramics, seduced by the flavours, packaging, price and unavailability in Australia and had swept the aisles of them. So I took them all out and stuffed them in my carry on which now weighed a considerable amount. But I wasn't done. The man looked at me once my bags were checked in and said "Now you'd better hurry to the gate, it's quite far away!" and with a quick farewell to my sister, I was off.
I've actively avoided running my whole life and there's a reason why. I don't go into graceful mode with hair streaming behind me. My limbs go everywhere and wearing a heavy winter coat, high heeled boots and carrying two bags laden down with glass jars was like some sort of bizarre race with a shopping handicap. I got to the gate, noticed everyone sitting around (which a part of me thought was odd), jumped over the legs that were sprawled out and ran straight up to the counter breathless.
"I'm so sorry I'm late!! Has the plane left yet? " I said panting.
The two staff members, not unkindly, looked at me and then gestured to the crowd. "No ma'am, boarding hasn't commenced."
Gathering up what little dignity I had left, I cleared my throat and straightened my hair. "Oh of course. I shall just go sit here for a while shall I?" I made my way to a free seat. The man next to me leant over to me and said "those bags look heavy. What you got in them, bricks?"
I looked at him and answered "several kilos worth of mustards and jams" and his quizzical look said it all. I was definitely the lady you don't want to sit next to on a long haul flight.
My mustard load has lightened considerably ever since I learned how easy it is to make mustard yourself from scratch. In fact there is no need to buy expensive mustards when in essence they all contain similar ingredients. If they're seeded or wholegrain mustard, they're made from mustard seeds mixed with mustard powder (which is finely ground mustard seeds), cold water and vinegar to stabilise them. The unseeded mustards are really just mustard powder, water and vinegar. Dijon style mustards are made with white wine instead of vinegar. It can stay stable at room temperature due to its medicinal properties and is a great gift because of this.
The yellow mustard seeds (also called "white" ones) are milder than the brown seeds which are quite spicy indeed. For the mustard to have the bite that it does, you just need to crack some of the seeds to get at a chemical which reacts with the cold liquid. If you use hot water or heat the mustard, it will be less hot. The one I made was a hot mustard, really for wasabi and mustard lover Mr NQN and making it yourself ensures that the mustard is hotter than what you will buy in the stores. I prefer milder mustards and absolutely loved it mixed with mayonnaise to make a lovely mustard mayonnaise which was ideal for my roast beef sandwiches. Wasabi lover Mr NQN however loved the resolute strength of this home made mustard.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever worry about missing your flight and do you get to the airport early just in case? And what usually weighs down your luggage? And do you like hot or mild mustard or wasabi?
And it's Wallpaper Wednesday so here's the latest wallpaper. Is it strange to have a sandwich as a wallpaper? Perhaps it is, I can never tell what's odd nowadays... ;) xxx
Made From Scratch: Hot Mustard
Adapted from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook
6 tablespoons mustard seeds (I used a mixture of yellow and brown, use only yellow if you prefer it milder)
1/2 cup mustard powder
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons white wine or raspberry vinegar
3 teaspoons honey
1/3 cup water (use cold water if you like your mustard hot and spicy or use warm or hot water if you like your mustard mild)
Herbs like dill or rosemary (optional)
Buyer's tip: mustard seeds can be found at spice stores. Herbies spices also sells a mix of yellow and brown seeds that you just add vinegar or verjuice to to make mustard.
Step 1 - In a mortar and pestle, grind the mustard seeds, not too finely, as we want them still whole. Add these to a small bowl along with the mustard powder and water and stir. Allow to stand for 15 minutes. Then add the salt, white wine vinegar and honey. If you want this really quite mild, you can also gently heat this in a saucepan for a few minutes. Place in a jar and allow to sit for at least 12 hours or overnight to settle the flavour (it will be too strong if you taste it straight away).
Storage: mustard doesn't need to be refrigerated, but if you make a mustard mayonnaise as I did with some of it, this will need to be refrigerated.