It stands at just over three inches in height, featuring a yellow-and-black colour scheme, and is purely decorative, serving no practical purpose. It’s a mass-produced glazed pot with a lid and it’s suffered some slight damage over the years, just a couple of minor chips. Other than that, it looks in pretty good shape for its age.
The legend on the cream-coloured pot reads: Löwensenf, which is German for Lion Mustard. Otto Frenzel. Düsseldorf. The head of a lion, with a shaggy yellow mane, forms part of the maker’s logo. If Roland Barthes had included it in one of his mythologies, it's possible he'd have speculated on the connection between mustard and lions. Perhaps he might have referred to a lion’s bite, for isn’t that what mustard generally has? A bit of a bite? To the extent that it makes your eyes water?
Perhaps he might also have alluded to the medieval concept of the Great Chain of Being, that hierarchical structure for all life, decreed by the Almighty Himself, and with God as top dog. Below the creator, in order of importance, are the various ranks of angels, mankind, the animal kingdom, plants, and minerals. The apogee for the animal predator is, of course, the lion, the king of the beasts. So maybe Löwensenf sees itself as the king of mustard.
The dates 1903 and 1953, which are prominently displayed on the pot, provide further clues as to why it was manufactured, namely to commemorate the firm’s fiftieth anniversary. From a historical perspective, 1953 was the same year that Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first men to scale the summit of Mount Everest, the king of mountains. And for those with a sweet tooth, it was the year in which sugar rationing ended in the UK.
Despite the formation of West Germany in 1949, this is not reflected on the base of the pot, where the country of origin simply reads: GERMANY. Not West Germany.
Otto Frenzel founded the company in Metz, Alsace-Lorraine, which, at the time, was part of the German Empire. After the First World War, when Metz and Alsace-Lorraine reverted back to France, the headquarters were relocated to Düsseldorf. Löwensenf is still in business there today.
Dating from five years before my birth, it’s proudly displayed on top of one of my bookcases. Where else would you keep an empty ornamental mustard pot? The irony is that I don’t particularly care for the stuff as a garnish, unless it’s an ingredient in a specific recipe. Yet I’m sure that pot will stay where it is until I die.