Saturday, November 17, 2007

Plain Yogurts of the World

I have recently come to a wonderful yet horribly limiting conclusion about yogurt-- plain yogurt is the best yogurt. And not just plain yogurt, but plain yogurt from foreign places.

Upon sampling several plain yogurts of the world, I have come to the conclusion that ubiquitous corporate "Big Yogurt" yogurts like Yoplait and Dannon are essentially unbearable. I can't believe there was a time when I both purchased and enjoyed them. Below is a list of demerits deserved by Big Yogurt:

1. The flavors they are offered in are absolutely ridiculous. Key lime pie? Chocolate mousse? Mixed berry? Boysenberry? Banilla?

2. The "fruit-at-the-bottom" concept is ill-conceived and poorly-executed. Yogurt should never serve as a vehicle for the consumption of low-quality high-fructose corn syrup-laden fruit. Who knows what is happening to the bacteria at the cellular level in the presence of such a concentrated carbon source?

3. The vivid colors are unnecessary. I've never eaten a boysenberry, let alone spent any time thinking about what color they might be-- so I won't be disappointed if it's not really lavender. Also, again stop to consider the potential consequences of exposing the bacteria populating this "live and active culture" to the chemical compounds used for artificial coloring. I'm thinking lots of random genetic mutations that could eventually result in a strain of L. acidophilus that secretes anthrax toxin.

4. Yogurt should not exist in certain textures. In my opinion, textures like "custard style" and "whipped" should be eyed with great suspicion. If you are uncomfortable eating mouthfuls of living cells, you should be eating custard anyway-- stop kidding yourself.

I think that about covers it. Now I'd like to describe the plain yogurt of the world that I am currently enjoying.

First of all, they spell it "yoghurt." The brand name is Fage [pronounced fah-yeh] and it's made in Greece. Unlike Big Yogurt, which tries to distract you from the fact that you are eating bacteria, the people at Fage offer a detailed description of how their yoghurt is cultured right on the container:

Cows are milked at various farms across Greece and milk is delivered to FAGE controlled collecting stations

Cows' milk is delivered to FAGE’s factory in Athens

Milk and cream are pasteurized and then cooled prior to the addition of the live cultures lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilitus.

Yoghurt is then incubated at 40 °c for 5-6 hours.

The whey is strained from the yoghurt using a separating process. This process makes the product a suitable cooking ingredient as it does not curdle at high temperatures.

Yoghurt is then filled into pots, lidded and date coded. Pots are then stored in a computer controlled warehouse ready for shipment to the UK in temperature controlled lorries.

That's right, in a computer controlled warehouse. I took some pictures of the yoghurt this morning while I was studying its unique material properties.
Notice that the label indicates that it is "strained yoghurt." This gives the yoghurt a silky yet strangely dense consistency that adheres with great strength to both its container and foreign objects [in this case, granola].

It has a very mild taste for a plain yogurt-- not tart at all. It is a pleasure to eat, and I recommend that you give it a try. Just understand that going back to Big Yogurt might not be easy, and that it shouldn't be easy. Embrace your opportunity to eat millions and millions of living cells, and appreciate what they taste like.


Brooks Rocco said...

It's time Big Yogurt is ousted as the culture sucking, intestine smudging, syrupy-stained, artificially-flavored blood industry it is. (specifically Red#7)
They're responsible for every vulvovaginal candidiasis case I've come across in my day to day, and seem to always be present whenever people try to shuffle past me on a crowded bus. Funny...

Unknown said...

I highly suggest a conversation between you and Shaina on this subject. She and I had a lively discussion last night about bacteria laden food and I was highly impressed by the research she is doing on this subect - with an eye to a phd in history of science or some other title I can't remember. I want to listen in on this fantasy conversation. PS - I love Fage too. And i love you. SusanR

Dharia said...

i am with you on that fruit-on-the-bottom crap. patently evil.

How do you feel about goat's milk yogurt? there is one with a green/black label that you can get a whole foods, etc. The brand name escapes me. its rather tasty. very tart.

jvs said...

Those Greeks, and their modeling clay!

I have recently started brewing kombucha tea, another bacterially-enhanced food in which you may be interested. Just about everyone who likes it will attribute to it the most miraculous healing powers, although it is only a tart beverage.