I pity the monks of the Dark Ages. Not only did they have to give up, you know, carnal pleasures, they were also expected to abstain from the corporeal pleasure found in a nice piece of beef. Perhaps even sadder? The fact that had they been permitted to partake of this latter forbidden flesh, they couldn’t, in any event, have slathered it with mustard, a condiment long considered an aphrodisiac and, as such, hands-off—at least for one particularly strict sect of Benedictines.
Thankfully in today’s more enlightened times, mustards of all kinds are condoned—even those as irreverent as Lusty Monk. This corrupt condiment came to me through divine intervention. One day my parents took a trip to the National Mustard Museum. Next thing I knew, on my doorstep was a small jar; on its label, a tonsured man with a leer to make you want to hide your underage daughters. Clearly, they understand my sense of humor.
Handmade in small batches by founder Kelly Davis in Asheville, N.C., and her sister, Kristen Monteith, Lusty Monk is named for those naughty monks who, instead of eschewing spicy foods, embraced them. Davis, who holds an undergraduate degree in history, says her inspiration initially came from the Victorian era, not the Middle Age. She’d happened upon a mustard recipe in an old cookbook and thought, “That’s weird. Nobody really makes mustard anymore.” She tweaked the recipe, her thoughts wandering to medieval monks—a connection that’s not quite as tangential as it seems. “There was sort of a general idea back then that hot foods would heat up the blood and make you carnally inclined,” she explains. Despite the obvious risk, Davis began bringing her concoction to parties. Friends raved.
Piquant, possessing plenty of bite, and punctuated with an abundance of tiny mustard seeds, Lusty Monk lends a more complex note than your typical French’s to turkey sandwiches, burgers, even cheese plates. As a dip for pretzels or crackers, it’s spicy but not so horseradish-y that it causes nostrils to flare. And with just a few spoonfuls, an otherwise pedestrian potato salad is transformed into something that can only be described as divine. Of the three versions of the Monk, my favorite is “Burn in Hell,” a chipotle mustard. Davis also makes “Altar Boy,” a honey mustard, and “Original Sin,” which started it all. If mustard this good is a sin, lead me straight into temptation, baby.
Lusty Monk mustards are $5.95 for an 8-ounce jar of PG-rated piquancy. They can be ordered online or found at specialty stores in the Carolinas, Colorado, and New Mexico, as well as at the National Mustard Museum. For store locations or to have Lusty Mustard delivered straight to your door, check out lustymonk.com.