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In Shakespeare’s in Henry IV, Part 2, Falstaff has the line: “his wit’s as thick as Tewkesbury Mustard” (Act 2, Scene 4). Falstaff is describing his friend Ned Poins, but it presents the question of what was Tewkesbury Mustard? Turns out this particular mustard developed in a small town of England called Tewkesbury, and it was not only popular in Shakespeare’s lifetime, but during the 17th century it was considered a staple condiment in kitchens of this time period. Amazingly, the mustard has not only survived the centuries but is still being made exactly the way it was for Shakespeare’s lifetime right in Tewkesbury at the Tewkesbury Mustard Company. We are delighted to have Robin Ritchie who is founder and Mustard Master Emeritus at the Tewkesbury Mustard Company to share with us the history of this mustard, how it is made, and how you can enjoy some for yourself. https://www.tewkesburymustard.co.uk/about/
Robin Ritchie started informally making Tewkesbury mustard in the year 2000, supplying the town only. On retirement he first collaborated, then handed over the reins of the business, now called The Tewkesbury Mustard Company to Samantha Ramsey. Under her direction, Tewksbury Mustard now sells world-wide.
Robin describes himself as a jack-of-all-trades, starting out as a forester in Scotland, then becoming qualified as a Landscape Architect in Cheltenham (where he met his wife Julie) before starting his own landscape construction company. This financed the start of Hoo House Nursery that his wife runs and now, in his old age, is building a barn, hoping to finish it before anno domini intervenes.
I’ll be asking Robin Ritchie about:
- What are the ingredients in Tewkesbury mustard?
- Tell us about how the mustard is made today and what specific methods you use that stays true to the 16th century artisan method of making this mustard.
- Who are some of the 16-17th century cooks and authors who reference this mustard and what recipes were they using it in?
- …and more!
Resources Recommended by Our Guest
I think large chunks were lifted from The Tewkesbury Mustard Web site though, sadly, among the illustrations is a jar of mustard labelled Tewkesbury mustard (which is anachronistic). There are, though, other interesting quotes and comments.
Gerard’s Herball is available as a facsimile in book form as is Culpepper’s herbal. They have less to do with cookery, more to do with self treatment for all the painful ailments they suffered. For instance Queen Elizabeth the first was always complaining about her teeth. What teeth she had were reputedly black. Possibly she chewed Tewkesbury mustard to improve her humour though I doubt she would risk a smile.
There are no mediaeval cooks contemporary with Shakespeare that I have found based in England. Nevertheless, some in European countries have published tracts. You can find a few on https://www.oldcook.com/en/medieval-discovering_cooks
The History of Nutmeg
Hear Brigitte Webster, Tudor food historian, share the provenance, usage, and famous recipes for Nutmeg in Shakespeare’s lifetime.
What’s Inside This Week:
- Images of Tewksbury mustard being made
- Images of Finished Tewskbury mustard balls
- Additional images from the Tewksbury Mustard Company
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That’s it for this week! Thank you for listening. I’m Cassidy Cash, and I hope you learn something new about the bard. I’ll see you next time!