I Greatly Overestimated How Big a Part Grey Poupon Would Play in Life

Kyle Koster
Sigrid Estrada/Getty Images
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At a very early age, I despised vile ketchup and had a deep passion for its counterpart, delicious mustard. While that's largely remained accurate over three-plus decades, a willingness to try the red stuff has emerged in small doses. Mustard remains a top-tier condiment but time and travel have exposed its relative one-note nature, especially the cheap variety. It feels aimed at an unsophisticated, youthful palate.

But reflecting on bologna sandwiches and how time brings refinement, a somewhat perplexing realization washed over me. I greatly overestimated how big a role Grey Poupon mustard would play in the cultural zeitgeist. Now, hear me out. It wasn't really my fault. Those of a certain age will remember just how arresting the commercials were.

The conceit was simple. One extremely wealthy British guy was eating a three-course meal in the backseat of his luxury car as Jeeves drove him around the countryside. Another fancy boy from The Club or Oxford or Fox Hunting pulled up next to him and asked him if had any Grey Poupon, the obvious implication being that there was some food in the other car in desperate need of dijon fit for a king.

If you're thinking this is extremely limited IP, think again, because the mustard-makers milked every last bit of flavor out of this seed of an idea for decades. And every single time one would come on -- at least for me -- there was a Pavlovian response to sit at rapt attention. For whatever reason, the concept of being civilized was beloved on Madison Avenue during this time (see: Charles Barkley for Right Guard).

Not only did Grey Poupon have an aggressive and effective marketing campaign, it was such a staple of pop culture that one of the more memorable scenes in Wayne's World spoofed on it.

Grey Poupon's import and its preponderance in the wild was greatly oversold. And yeah, all advertising does that. Yet to a kid with a simple brain, the natural conclusion was that adults were constantly zipping around in their vehicles with jars of mustard in case another driver required assistance. Not my parents, of course, but we were poor. Other, more high-class people, I assumed.

Erroneously, I believed Grey Poupon and all mustard-related discourse would be an important part of the human experience. That it should be studied like the Classics. This has proven to be very much not true. In fact, I can count on two hands the amount of times I've thought about Grey Poupon beyond grabbing it off a supermarket shelf.

Anyway, it's crazy to think about where you thought your life would go when you were small and the world was so big. Wonder if it could apply to any non-condiment realms.

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