Thursday, January 13, 2005
Two French Guys Made Mustard; Could Either Have Imagined...?
By ROGER M. GRACE
It was in the late 1880s. The owners of a newly formed mustard company in the French town of Dijon, Maurice Grey and Auguste Poupon, were having a conversation. Unbeknownst to them, it was being taken down by an eavesdropping monk. The handwritten transcript was recently found in a monastery in Dijon which is being converted into a Target store, and was translated only last week into contemporary English.
“Gus, I’m worried,” Monsieur Grey began. “I’ve had another one of my dreams, and buddy, it was a dilly. And, yet, it was so vivid that I just wonder if it was actually a premonition.”
“Well, Maury,” Monsieur Poupon responded, “the dream couldn’t have been any wackier than the one you had about a carriage, moving without any horse pulling it, being navigated beside another coach, and a fellow leaning out and asking, ‘Pardon me, but do you have any Grey-Poupon?’ ”
The conversation continued:
“It was more fantastic than that, Gus. It took place in the New World. In Pennsylvania. And it was in the future—way, far in the future. More than a century from now. Grey-Poupon Mustard was being sold there, and —”
“Yikes, Maury! That really was a fantastic dream. The thought that our modest venture would become so successful that it would exist long after we’re gone, and there would be a Grey-Poupon store in Pennsylvania—”
“No, no, Gus. There was no Grey-Poupon store there.”
“Phew! I thought it was really getting weird. Okay, you mean that you dreamt that there was a store in Pennsylvania about 150 years from now that had imported Grey-Poupon mustard from here in Dijon and was selling it. Well, that could happen, I guess.”
“No, Gus. The mustard was being manufactured in Pennsylvania and sold in stores across the American continent.
“Maury! Maury! That’s preposterous! Even using steam-driven mills, like the one you devised, and using the machine you invented in 1853 that sifts and grinds mustard seeds and speeds everything up, it would take hundreds, maybe thousands of workers to produce enough mustard for that much territory. Buddy, this was no premonition. It was a fantasy.”
“Well, in my dream, there were only 70 people working in each of the three shifts a day, five days a week.”
“See, Maury, I told you it was a fantasy. How could any factory survive with shifts as short as eight hours, and covering only part of the week? OK, maybe some of what you dreamt could happen. It could be that 100-and-some-odd years from now Grey-Poupon Mustard will still be sold. And it could be that some guy in Pennsylvania will be using our recipe, making mustard with verjuice, that wonderful, sour juice from unripe grapes that makes the mustard so much better than that made with vinegar. But the rest, well....”
“Here’s the part that really gets bizarre, Gus. The mustard those people in Pennsylvania were preparing wasn’t made with verjuice. They were using vinegar and white wine.”
“And this you think is a premonition? It is insanity! Grey-Poupon Mustard being prepared with vinegar and white wine? Even in your wildest dreams you shouldn’t contemplate something that outlandish!”
“Well, it is my wildest dream. But so real, so real, it seemed. Even the part about Grey-Poupon being owned by one tobacco company, and then by a rival tobacco company, and the brand being changed to “Grey Poupon” without the hyphen between our names, and” Grey Poupon” being used on the labels of four mustards other than Dijon mustard, including one made with honey.”
“Maury, my friend. You’ve been working too hard. A nice rest is what you need. Maybe a trip to Paris. Now, just never, never mention your dreams to anyone else. I do not want you winding up committed to the madhouse!”
Well, that’s the extent of the transcript (imaginary, of course).
Grey and Poupon are generally believed to have teamed up in about 1886—and not in 1777 as claimed by the current brand proprietor.
In his 1953 trademark application, Bernard Poupon of Paris showed 1901 as the date “Grey-Poupon” was first used in commerce in the U.S., presumably as an import. Grey-Poupon Mustard was first produced in the United States in 1946 by Heublein Inc., a liquor company, to which Poupon assigned his rights in 1967. The brand was sold in 1981 to R.J. Reynolds Industries, maker of Camels, Salems and Winston’s cigarettes, and was manufactured under the Nabisco umbrella after R.J. Reynolds bought Nabisco in September, 1985. In December, 2000, Philip Morris (now known as Altria Group) bought Nabisco, and consigned Grey Poupon to its Kraft Foods component.
It used to be produced here, in Oxnard, at the Del Monte plant (Del Monte having been a Nabisco holding). Nowadays, however, Grey Poupon mustards are made in Upper Macungie Township, in Pennsylvania.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company
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