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Mostarda: Good for What Ails You

My surgery was a week ago today, and slowly but surely I’m emerging from the trough of pain and discomfort. Really, with the exception of Monday, when I thought for sure the surgeon had scattered X-Acto blades inside my belly, it hasn’t been too bad. Each day has been progressively better—it still hurts, but much less. I expect that by this time next week I’ll be riding the subway and behaving much like a normal human being (good thing, too, since that’ll be my fortieth birthday—I’d hate to think I might still be a patient by then).

In the meantime, though, little things are making me feel better: The enforced down time has given me a chance to finally plow through the daunting stack of food magazines next to the bed. Wayne, our UPS man, has brought several care packages from family and friends, flowers, cookies, Zingerman’s. And now that I’m feeling strong enough, I’ve taken a few walks in the neighborhood—it’s amazing how downright exhilarating frigid air can be when you’ve been cooped up for days on end.

Today I combined all those nice little things to make another, really great thing: On my afternoon stroll I picked up some pizzette, a flat pizza-like bread from the local Italian bakery, and when I got home I cracked open one of my Zingerman’s treasures, a jar of pear mostarda. I’ve been reading about this condiment for some time now in various foodie places, but never tasted it: It’s a sweet-spicy mixture of candied fruit, in this case very thin slices of pear, preserved in a sugar syrup that’s been dosed with mustard oil. It looks an awful lot like chunky jam, but the aroma is distinctly mustardy, as is the kick when you taste it. I tore off hunks of the bread, carefully arranged slices of pear over them, drizzled some of the syrup, and showered lacy shards of parmigiano reggiano onto the sticky surface.

Oh. My. God. This is crazy good stuff, my friends. S and I wolfed down our snack, moaning with pleasure and licking our fingers, and raced back into the kitchen for another round, this time with the addition of a little cracked black pepper. Even better! The sweetness of the pears, the heat of the mustard, the pungent saltiness of the cheese, the chewy, oily bread… Sigh. I don’t mind if I never leave the apartment again, as long as we’ve got mostarda, bread, parmesan, and black pepper. The jar’s half gone already, and already I’m getting depressed at the prospect of a day without.

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