We sit by the window, eating Chobani with rigid, robust, black C-store spoons.
“Did you know Chobani was actually founded by a Turkish dude?” I say. She is Greek, and I know some of the tumultuous regional history, but I am still surprised to see her eyes well with tears.
“Yeah. Pretty terrible,” I add a moment later. I look at the floor. “Let’s not finish these.”
The next day I notice my table covered in what appear to be shards of translucent glass. I look closer, and they glisten, as if alive. The ice-like pellets are scattered beside the half-filled containers. The Chobani left over on the aluminum tops had hardened, fallen, and broken up into unrecognizable fragments.
I was introduced to Fage by a friend. I don’t think he realized at the time how special it is. I couldn’t say then just what it was either, but I was smitten, responding, I think, to the yogurt’s blinding, simple coherence; pert, perfectly split into symmetric, radial orange-like slices, complemented by a semi-cylindrical pouch worn by a caring mother nature comforting you with the delicately sweet fresh fruit of her womb.
Fage was founded in 1922, in Greece. The American container announces that it is the #1 selling yogurt in Greece, near where it tells you that the name is “pronounced: Fa-yeh!” as if it must be exclaimed. Chobani was founded in 2005, in upstate New York. The “history” section of Chobani’s Wikipedia page says, “Chobani has been the beneficiary of the growth of Greek-type strained yogurt (known as ‘Turkish’ yogurt outside the United States).”
The comment about Turkish yogurt does not seem unrelated to the warning at the top of the Wikipedia page letting readers know that “a major contributor to the article appears to have a close relationship to the subject.” I find myself irritated, suspicious that the indignity of what amounts to highly remunerative cultural appropriation by a gauche, inferior product is being masked via exploitation of Wikipedia’s editorial permissiveness. I do some quick research: a Google search for “Greek yogurt” returns 2.2 million hits; “Turkish yogurt” returns 30.4k hits. I try in Spanish: “yogur Griego” returns 29K results, “yogur Turco” gets 7K. I try in Chinese:”希臘酸奶 ” gets 43K results, “土耳其酸奶” gets 12K. In Turkish, the results are similarly skewed.
I return to the site five days later. The sentence is gone. I check the page’s revision history to make sure I’m not crazy. Two days before, IP address 18.104.22.168, from New York City, had flagged it for a citation. Six hours later, the offending line was removed by 22.214.171.124. In a capricious world, it is soothing to see the gods of Wikipedia look fondly upon Fage.
A Fage’s decay begins soon after you leave the store with it. You arrive at your room and it is perfectly ripe, ready to be devoured. If left untouched (even in the refrigerator), its constitution weakens rapidly over time. Once solid and well kempt, it becomes bloated, invaded by water and pockmarked with air bubbles. It is domesticated to mature quickly, its life cycle optimized for its predicted duration on a cooled U-store shelf.
Eating Fage is cognitively taxing. It requires patience and continued attentiveness. With each bite I must deftly maneuver my limber, fragile, white U-store spoon from small container to large container, carving out enough fruit and yogurt to best suit the dynamic needs of my palate.
The careful calibration involved in each spoonful of Fage belies the rate at which whole yogurts are consumed. Fages aren’t eaten, they are inhaled. A general appeal to its good taste is insufficient to explain this widely observed phenomenon. I think, rather, it is the intoxicating complementarity of its components, the vicious-delicious circle of tart and sweet enacted in the natural, harmonic motion of well to well to mouth, well to well to mouth.
I was surprised to hear that others mix the provided container of fruit with their yogurt. There are no canons to consult, as far as I know, but the admittedly circumspect oral tradition I do have tells me that this is a violation of Greek orthodoxy. Mixing upends the carefully designed balance of the yogurt and turns what should be an intentional and artful process of consumption into a fiendish and destructive one. May the practice be blotted out.
A few weeks ago I left a note for the C-store manager about stocking Fage in addition to Chobani. I had grown fed up with the C-store—its poor selection of ice cream and seeming inability to respond adequately to demand as evidenced by the recurrent scarcity of sea salted “Dirty” potato chips—and I figured this was just a shot in the dark. A week or so later, however, I was alerted by a number of conscientious peers that there was Fage in the C-store. Following an involuntary exclamation and a mental fist pump, I proceeded to Frist to begin my consumption.
On most days, when I remember, I walk into the C-store and look at the available selection. I observe the ebb and flow of commerce, the push and pull of supply and demand. They do not yet stock my preferred flavors (2% strawberry and peach), and I am not hopeful that they will notice that the cherry yogurts linger long after the others are gone, or respond to that fact in case they do. The rigid, robust, black spoons that I once considered a distinctive advantage of the C-store now turn out to be too rigid and too robust to reach the last remnants of the Fage fruit cup. My follow-up note, with its enthusiastic gratitude and minor follow-up suggestions will almost certainly be ignored, even if it’s seen. But the Fage successfully scans at the register and is regularly replenished; it seems like it is here to stay. Each day, many individuals are satisfied in a way they would not have been without the local presence of this delicious and healthy product. Progress has been made. For that, I am thankful.