Once upon a time, yogurt occupied a thin sliver of the dairy aisle. Now it’s an entirely separate section of the grocery store. There are at least a dozen brands of plain yogurt, but wait! There’s more! Yogurt comes with fruit on the bottom, sprinkles on top, M&Ms mixed in, and almond butter swirled over. The choice is overwhelming, but it’s also what consumers have come to expect.
For many Americans, yogurt is a staple snack food. In other parts of the world, it’s a marinade, a dip, a base for a soup, a drink. Indians stir it with chickpea flour and turmeric to make a warming, bright yellow dish called kadhi. Persians use strained yogurt as an aromatic side dish called mast o khiar, with cucumbers, rose petals, raisins, herbs, and garlic. In Turkey and Lebanon, meat dumplings are bathed in a tangy yogurt sauce to make shish barak. In the US, in spite of all the years yogurt has been a fridge mainstay, we’re still stuck on fruit and granola. Go figure.
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