FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Ralph Gardner Jr.
Who among us hasn’t wondered, at some point or another, where the mustard and ketchup comes from that blanket our hot dogs at ball games? Or the horseradish we dab on our roast beef or stir into our Bloody Marys? Or, come to think of it, the cocktail sauce we use to dip our shrimp?
So when the opportunity arose to visit’s Gold’s, the maker of all sorts of condiments—a half-dozen varieties of mustard (including the Nathan’s Famous); duck, tartar and barbecue sauces; and, of course, its own famous red, white and hot horseradish—I seized it.
Horseradish roots are transformed into Gold’s red, white and hot horseradish at the company’s plant in Hempstead, Long Island.
The invitation came from Steven Gold, a member of the family that has been supplying America horseradish since the Thirties. “We use the same recipe my grandmother used 82 years ago,” Mr. Gold said as he led me through the company’s plant in Hempstead, Long Island.
We eventually came to the room where hundreds of pounds of horseradish are ground daily. “Tillie started doing it as a business to supplement their income during the Depression,” Mr. Gold said of his grandmother, who founded the business. “She inherited the machine from a cousin they bailed out of jail.”
I didn’t ask why the cousin had been incarcerated, for two reasons. First, it’s none of my business; if Mr. Gold had wanted to tell me, he would have. Second, I was largely incapacitated. I didn’t know this about horseradish—I’m not a big fan, in any case, even though my wife is—but in massive quantities, it makes your eyes water and breathing difficult.
“They wear gas masks so they can breath,” explained Melissa Gold, Steven’s daughter, and a member of the fourth generation to run the company. “My grandfather said we do the crying for you.”
Other family members include Marc Gold, Steven’s brother; Marc’s son, Shaun Gold; and Howard Gold, a cousin.
Ms. Gold was referring to a couple of employees who were tossing huge pieces of the gnarly beige root into the grinder. Most of it comes from a single town in the Midwest. “Last year there was a drought,” Ms. Gold explained. “I rented a car and drove around in Hungary and ended up buying 80,000 pounds last year and another 80,000 pounds now.”
The Golds take pride in the freshness of their horseradish. “It came in last night,” Ms. Gold said as we now stood in a storeroom, where horseradish was stocked to the ceiling, “and it’s being made today.”
That’s all well and good. But if their other customers are anything like us, one bottle of horseradish goes a long way. It can sit in our refrigerator for years. It’s not as if there’s huge demand. “It doesn’t go rancid,” Steven Gold explained. “But it just loses its potency.”
Passover and Easter are peak horseradish season, with Christmas and Hanukkah running a close second. “With the simultaneous holidays it’s bad for business,” explained Marc Gold, who would join us for lunch in the company’s conference room. He meant the unusual convergence this year of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.
It was a lunch, I might add, where I was getting encouragement from all sides to smear my standard ham and Swiss sandwich with mustard, horseradish, even cocktail sauce.
The Golds live their values, and their condiments. “Any inexpensive cut of meat put mustard on it, it makes it better,” Marc Gold insisted, thrusting squeeze bottles of Dusseldorf, Dijon, honey, horseradish, New York deli and reduced salt mustard in my direction.
Just that morning at breakfast, Ms. Gold confided that she had used cocktail sauce on her scrambled eggs. She is usually at the office by 5:30 a.m. “It kind of wakes you up,” she said.
“And we didn’t tell you that horseradish is an aphrodisiac,” Steven Gold said, though how seriously I’m uncertain. “Put a little refrigerator by your nightstand.”
Other products—no claims were made regarding their performance-enhancing attributes—include ketchup with horseradish, and schav, an Eastern European sorrel soup.
My visit came about because Steven Gold read a column where I gently took the Barclays Center to task for not stocking its condiments carts with mayonnaise. Gold’s supplies the condiments for Barclays, as well as Citi Field and Fenway Park in Boston. Several readers wrote and, in borderline-abusive language, criticized me for not knowing that mayo spoils and explained the spoilage factor is why ballpark condiment stations are often mayo-free.
Steven Gold disagreed. “It doesn’t spoil,” he said. “It’s almost like a preservative. If you make a tuna sandwich with mayo, the tuna will last longer with it. Modern store-bought mayonnaise has preservatives.”
Another public service Gold’s performs is to partner with clients, such as the New York Mets, on promotions that include player bobbleheads—examples grace the top of a filing cabinet in Marc Gold’s office.
“One year we did a Kaz Matsui bobblehead day,” he said, referring to a Japanese player who was traded to the Colorado Rockies in 2006. “The Mets allowed us to put wasabi next to the ketchup and mustard for the weekend.”
Oh, I forgot to mention that Gold’s also makes a wasabi sauce.