Originally published in quality newspapers the week of February 13, 2011
Over the last few months we’ve had some help around our house from problem-solver extraordinaire Bruce. To call him a handyman does not do Bruce justice. He’s got the brain of an engineer, the skilled hands of a carpenter, and the patience of Job.
We’ve lived in our now-103-year-old home for almost 12 years now. It is our first house and when we moved in I attacked each and every home improvement and repair with enthusiastic gusto. “We’re not hiring anyone to refinish those hardwoods,” I told my wife, “I can do that myself.” I gave it a shot, gave it my best actually, but failed miserably and ended up calling the professionals.
Even the seemingly simplest tasks, like hanging a light fixture, prove more challenging for me than most people. It’s like the part of my brain that can see things in three dimensions and perform the other mental functions necessary to execute such tasks, doesn’t work right. It’s like I have some sort of DIY dyslexia. A guy like me needs a guy like Bruce.
I got my first clue that I was not like other guys at 15 when I was hired to mow for our church. This task required a John Deere tractor, a push mower, and a weed whacker, all of which needed maintenance and repair on a regular basis. I learned early that a career in lawn care was not in my future.
Then came job number two: a cook in a restaurant. Within the first hour I knew I was in my element. Strangely many of the tasks were similar to those in the mowing business. I was still handling tools, some of which cold easily sever fingers, I still needed to maintain equipment and assemble machinery like the biggest food processor you have ever seen, yet it all made sense in the setting of a kitchen. Within a few days I was improvising on recipes and making suggestions for process improvements. I was richly rewarded for my good work getting a ten-cent an hour raise to $3.45.
So here I am now, a middle-aged man who tinkers in the kitchen instead of the garage; and while other dads are spending their weekends building bookshelves or laying new bathroom floors, a typical home project for me is to make a batch of demi glaze. As a result, my family eats well but may have to put up with a broken light switch until I can call Bruce.
One of my recent DIY projects was tackling an item that is a constant presence in my refrigerator but one that I new little about – mustard. After doing a little research I learned that this ancient condiment is surprisingly easy to make and thanks to some of the properties of these tiny seed, will last pretty much forever without spoiling. I started out with a basic whole grain version but have plans to experiment with some of the endless variations. Depending on what sort of liquid used – vinegars, wine, beer; other flavoring agents like fruiy and level of sweetness you want, you can literally make a different mustard each month for the rest of your life and never run out of possibilities.
Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer around the rest of the house or not, I urge you to try making your own mustard and see what happens. As for me, I’m going to continue to call Bruce, but next time he comes over I might to make him a sandwich with some of my homemade mustard.
Whole Grain Mustard
- 1/3 cup brown mustard seeds
- 1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds
- Apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup ground yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Place the brown and yellow mustard seeds in a jar with a lid and add vinegar so that it is about ½ inch above the top of the seeds. Put lid on and let sit over night. Dump this mixture into a food processor, add the other ingredients, and pulse a few times. Add water if it is too think. Return to the jar and store in fridge for just about forever!