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Why This Lawyer Quit His Job To Open A National Mustard Museum

Yes, mustard.

Barry Levenson used to be passionate about law. Now, he’s passionate about mustard.

In 1986, the practicing attorney discovered this condiment as a hobby, he says, and soon left his law career behind to make mustard his life. Levenson opened his mustard museum ― originally called the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum ― in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, in 1992; it’s now located in Middleton, Wisconsin, and called the National Mustard Museum. Levenson spoke about his rather unusual passion on a 1999 episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“I found that mustards were so interesting. They had such great flavors and I also discovered that they’re so healthy because there are virtually no calories in mustard,” Levenson told Oprah back then. “It’s fabulous.”

On that show, Levenson brought nine different mustards for a tasting, with flavors ranging from raspberry honey mustard to wine-garlic mustard. Oprah’s favorite of the bunch was a walnut Dijon, which Levenson says people still request 17 years later when they visit his mustard museum, which is home to more than 5,800 different mustards from all over the world.

“People still ask for ‘Oprah’s favorite mustard,’ and we know exactly what they’re talking about,” Levenson tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” today.

Don’t look back at your life and say, 'I wonder what would have happened if I had started a museum about mustard.'

The National Mustard Museum sees roughly 30,000 visitors each year, Levenson adds, with around 6,000 showing up on National Mustard Day alone (the first Saturday in August). “People come here, they just have a good time,” Levenson says. “They learn things they never thought they would learn.” 

Levenson’s passion for mustard has also driven him to author a children’s book about it. “It’s called ‘Mustard on a Pickle,’” he says. “It’s very important to get little children very interested in mustard and appreciating mustard. Best way to do that is start reading to them about mustard.”

After decades in the mustard business, Levenson still finds the same joy in his work as he did on Day One and encourages everyone to follow his or her passion, no matter what it is.

“If you have an interest that seems to overwhelm you, it can become a passion. Act on it. Don’t wait,” Levenson says. “Don’t look back at your life and say, ‘I wonder what would have happened if I had started a museum about mustard.’”

Another person who followed her passion:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the original name and location of Levenson’s museum, as well as the year it first opened.

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