By Tara Kaprowy
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — In my undying effort to keep trim, and in a final push to be at my goal weight for my 37th birthday, I found myself wandering aimlessly around the grocery the other day looking for something delicious and low-cal. Probably, I should have looked no farther than the produce department since things like carrot sticks and apple slices are the only real diet food. But you know what? It’s April and the produce still sucks. After a while, the idea of having yet another banana makes you want to barf.
But then I passed by the organic dairy section and I noticed that the yogurt selection has grown considerably. I pass by this section often, and over the past year have increasingly been putting plain Fage yogurt in my basket. I find that when it comes to toning down a hot curry or adding excitement to a thick soup, it does a good job.
But this time I noticed Fage was now surrounded by several brands of flavored Greek yogurt, whether honey, vanilla, cherry, lemon or blueberry.
Thinking of Greek yogurt, I was transported instantly back to Mykonos. It was our first, bright day on the island and my best friend Kristin and I were marveling over how much cheaper Greece was than Italy. So cheap, in fact, we could afford a bottle of wine with our dinner. So we noshed on creamy, salty feta, cut into grilled beef that had been charred over smoky coals, peeled shrimp and dipped the pink meat in garlicky butter, and sipped on that lovely wine. Surrounding us were chatty locals and affectionate cats, who roamed comfortably among the tables while the warm breeze rushed through the huge open windows. Then the waiter — oh yes, he was handsome all right — suggested dessert and Kristin and I looked at each other.
“Are you kidding,” we said to each other. “Our hotel room is 30 Euros a night. Of course we’re having dessert.”
He came back with two bowls of plain yogurt drizzled with honey as golden as the setting sun. That yogurt was unlike anything we’d ever had before: tangy, creamy and as thick as icing. For the next three weeks, we ordered yogurt as often as we could, wondering why in the heck North America couldn’t get it together and offer something comparable.
Because up until then, which was about 10 years ago, yogurt was something you choked down more than enjoyed, wasn’t it? So thin, you were lucky to keep it in your spoon before spilling. So processed, it had the disturbing after-taste of chemicals. Its biggest selling factor was that it was supposed to keep you “regular” or after seven days you got your “money back.”
Then, remember Yop? The yogurt, umm, drink? Ugh, was there anything more off-putting than seeing that your mom had tucked a bottle of Yop in your lunch kit? Unless it’s juice, a piece of food should never, under any circumstances, be re-formatted so it becomes a drink. Agreed?
But things have changed. A few years ago, Kroger started carrying Oikos, plain Greek yogurt that actually was pretty good. Then Fage hit the scene and now the Greek yogurt selection had sprouted like a garden.
So the other day, I picked up a single-serving-size tub of Voskos brand and saw that its contents translated to just 120 calories. But the tub, it felt weighty and the nutritional information said it contained 12 grams of protein — the secret to feeling full for longer. Could this be my golden ticket?
The next morning, after another disappointing step on the scale, I pulled out the Voskos and peeled back the foil. The yogurt was a light pink and smelled like cream and strawberries. I dug my spoon in and then watched it stay put, the yogurt dense enough to keep the spoon afloat. I took a bite and, hello, it was delicious. It was low-calorie, high-protein deliciousness.
So I propose we’ve entered a new era of yogurt, one in which we’ve finally shed the clotty Yoplait, the chemically Activia, the strange fruit-at-the-bottom concoctions that make you feel like you’re eating jam. Finally, we seem to be catching up to the Greeks. And I’m a little bit closer to that evening in Mykonos.