The etymology of words and phrases fascinates me. I hear an expression and I like to find out what the root of it is. It’s kind of like a puzzle that I try to piece together.
'Cut the Mustard' is one of those terms that I heard recently. Of course I know what it means and how to use it but how did it come to be?
The phrase dates back to the mid 17th century. At that time ‘mustard’ was associated with people and things. But it didn’t mean they were just like mustard, it meant that they were mustard. This is in relation to the heat and kick of the spice associated with the enthusiasm and energy of a person’s actions. Along those same lines, ‘cutting’ has long been interchangeable with ‘exhibiting’. Therefore, 'cutting the mustard' could be just another way of saying 'exhibiting one's high standards'.
As you know, Colonel Mustard was a military man . . . and a fine one at that. Another line of thought is that ‘cut the mustard’ is a corrupted version of the military expression 'cut the muster'. This explanation cannot possibly be plausible. The mustering of troops is to assemble and present them for inspection. Cutting the muster . . . failing to show . . . would be disobeying an order and therefore a breach of discipline. Hardly fitting in with the meaning of ‘cut the mustard’. However, along those same lines ‘pass muster’ . . . passing inspection . . . fits but it’s unlikely that this is the origin of the phrase.
Cher’s Rustic Mustard
1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Hot Pepper Flakes
Cover the mustard seeds in the vinegar and water, making sure the seeds are covered by the liquid.
Add the sugar and spices to the seeds mixture. Begin with about 1 tsp. of each spice.
Let soak for 2 days. Blend mixture until it reaches desired consistency, adding water if needed.
The mustard will at first seem extremely spicy, but will mellow out after a day or two in the fridge.
Try putting a teaspoon with some olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings for a homemade vinaigrette.