The re­vival of The Age of Yo­gurt

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - OPINION - David Raf­ferty is a Greenwich res­i­dent. DAVID RAF­FERTY

If you are of a cer­tain age, there’s some­thing about yo­gurt that you prob­a­bly can’t get out of your head. Re­mem­ber those Dan­non ads from the 1970s? The ones with Soviet oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans split­ting wood, tend­ing fields and 89-year old Ba­grat Ta­pagua with his smil­ing mother and a voiceover say­ing, “In Soviet Ge­or­gia, there are two cu­ri­ous things about the peo­ple. A large part of their diet is yo­gurt, and a large num­ber of them live past 100.”

Oh boy, that was all you needed to tell the meat eaters of Amer­ica. Eat yo­gurt and live to be 100? Ex­cel­lent, where do I sign up? This blobby con­coc­tion with fruit on the bot­tom was su­per­food. Or at least what passed for su­per­food in 1975. De­mand for yo­gurt soared. Dan­non be­came a house­hold name and the yo­gurt busi­ness re­ally took off. But this is Amer­ica, prac­ti­cally the birth­place of cycli­cal food fads. And even these days, when we re­ally should know bet­ter, we are no­to­ri­ous for ra­tio­nal­iz­ing why we eat the junk we do.

But even pre-In­ter­net, be­fore we all had a uni­verse of in­for­ma­tion at our fin­ger­tips to help us know bet­ter, we had our grand­moth­ers. Grandma al­ways had the an­swers, right? Grandma read in­gre­di­ent la­bels, clipped ar­ti­cles in Read­ers Di­gest and just knew what needed to be known. And what did grandma have to say about this new­fan­gled hip­pie goop? That yo­gurt was just a petri dish of sour milk and live bac­te­ria (or as Gram­mie called it, “bugs”) act­ing as a cat­a­lyst to make it “ac­tive.” Yummy.

Well, to no­body’s sur­prise sales even­tu­ally plateaued. Yo­gurt was slowly con­signed to a sliver of your gro­cery store next to the cot­tage cheese, liv­ing a lonely ex­is­tence mostly as some­thing only peo­ple on a diet would eat be­cause ice cream wasn’t an op­tion.

Re­cently though, some­thing has changed. Yo­gurt has be­come a big-time thing again. Maybe it started when com­pa­nies cre­ated yo­gurt for kids and ba­bies, putting it into tubes for con­ve­nience and pitch­ing it as a source of non-meat nutri­tion, but in 2018 yo­gurt choices can’t just be plain or with fruit on the bot­tom. This is the 21st cen­tury and aren’t we more so­phis­ti­cated? For ex­am­ple, no­body just buys tooth­paste any­more; we cu­rate our den­tal hy­giene se­lec­tions from a myr­iad of op­tions. So too with yo­gurt. Have you looked re­cently at what yo­gurt is avail­able just in Con­necti­cut? If not, let me tell you some of what I found when I looked.

In Greenwich stores, you can buy yo­gurt from among many places such as France, Italy, Greece, Colorado, the Hud­son Val­ley and Ice­land. You can get it made with whole milk, low-fat milk, no milk, cashew milk, al­mond, goat or soy milk. It can be drink­able, squeez­able, cold­pressed, pro­bi­otic, pro­tein­in­fused, Greek style, (but not nec­es­sar­ily from Greece) and made for ba­bies or se­niors. Your fruit, nuts, cook­ies or what­ever can be pre-mixed, on the side, on the lid or in a side­car. Phew.

It’s no won­der that dur­ing my time look­ing at the yo­gurt sec­tion I came across many shop­pers who just stood and stared at the se­lec­tions. I mean trans­fixed, with no idea how to choose one among all the op­tions. I’m pretty sure most ended up choos­ing their cul­tured cow juice the way most peo­ple buy wine. They know they don’t want the cheap­est and they know they can’t taste the dif­fer­ence be­tween the most ex­pen­sive and the stuff in the mid­dle. So they buy the one with the most in­ter­est­ing la­bel.

So what does our cur­rent fas­ci­na­tion with this ar­ti­sanal lac­tose soup have to say about us at this mo­ment in time? I don’t know, but it does mean some­thing. Ob­vi­ously yo­gurt’s not just a kid thing or a diet thing, and if you ac­tu­ally read the nutri­tion la­bels you’ll know it’s not re­ally a su­per­food thing ei­ther. In a way, maybe it’s a re­flec­tion of who we are. We like what we like, but we’ll like it even more when it looks fancy. And of course, when mar­keted prop­erly. Those Soviet Ge­or­gians for ex­am­ple, re­ally did like their yo­gurt ... but iron­i­cally, mostly as a sun­screen and burn cream, even more than as food.

Yo­gurt is seen on dis­play at a gro­cery store.

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