Friday, November 04, 2005

Yogurt Tales

Mini Yogurts, in Glass, from Trader Joe's Market

Fast-forward to the future:

There we are, in the Ingredient Sleuth's garage one morning, California sunshine streaming in through the door's easterly windows. Hundreds of shiny reflections bounce into near-space, from the shelving that lines the walls. In some of the reflections, little rainbow-segments of multi colors flutter brightly.

Has the Sleuth finally embarked upon a career in glass blowing, using the garage as storage area for recently-created wonders? Or maybe she has gone wild at the local flea market and bought up every glass Christmas ornament that she could find?

Probably not. Most likely, she has simply continued to set aside -- just for a LITTLE while, of course! -- each and every one of those darling little yogurt pots as they were emptied and rinsed. Just too charming to toss out, those mini, glass jars. Just perfect for a handful of fresh, purple pansies or white lilies-of-the valley -- or both! You could easily picture them in the middle of a small, round cafe table, adding a flowery touch to patio dining.

How quickly time passes -- the glass jars must number one hundred by now!

Fortunately, this little vision is still futuristic. I haven't stockpiled EVERY little yogurt jar. And, even if I had, my yogurt-jar productivity would be severely restricted by my normal penchant to buy yogurt in those economical 32-ounce plastic tubs!

These little yogurts, imported from Europe, are great little treats, though. I like to savor them as a dessert, alternating time-to-time among the flavors that are available. There seems to be something about their taste that is just SO natural, somehow. They make dessert feel so, well, healthful!

Naturally, my mind has turned to producing some yogurt treats that are similar, using the contents of the 32-ounce plastic tubs. Memories of "yogurt tales" come to the surface and inspire new attempts at "yogurt management"!

I remember a television segment in which travel commentator Rick Steves tasted Greek yogurt, topped with a lovely, drippy topping of honey. Not normally one to over-enthuse about foods in his programs, typically uttering a prosaic "that's good" during tastings, Rick displayed a rather dreamy look of pleasure as he experienced the lovely contrast of flavors.

Then too, there was the episode of Huell Howser's charming TV journals (about life throughout California) in which he featured the +100-year-old California man who still made his own yogurt at home and consumed good servings of it every day. Huell looked a little surprised at the "bold" flavor of the homemade, plain yogurt when he tasted it. But, he had to marvel at the way the centenarian gentleman fielded both kitchen utensils and interviewer questions with simultaneous aplomb during their meeting! The interviewee credited, what else, the yogurt!

A closer-to-home yogurt tale grew out of one of my own personal experiences with the creamy, white milk product. The first time that I tried one of those handy little individual containers of cherry yogurt, I was SO disappointed! What an affront to my taste buds! In spite of the pretty, dark red cherry on the container, there was not a single cherry to be found! Until .... Yes, that's right. There it was, all the good cherry sweetness, at the bottom of the container. Maybe I should have read the directions before eating!

To imitate those "fruit at the bottom" yogurts that are so familiar, I like to put a spoonful of my favorite fruit preserves on the top of "plain" (read as "cheaper") yogurt. It really doesn't take much re-training, even for the Ingredient Sleuth, to stir the fruit down rather than up! That way, I can control the amount of sweetness that is added.

My favorite yogurt memory, though, is a particularly-appropriate one to share today. Around a beautiful, round, wooden dining table in La Jolla, California, a gracious and welcoming hostess fluttered with capable (and typical) ease. Florence, my downstairs neighbor at the condo complex that was my first California residence some time ago, was entertaining my mother, sister and me.

I was almost as new to California as my vacationing family. We all became "fast friends" with Florence. How could we not? Always more interested in listening than talking, Florence was (and is) an expert at drawing you out, making you feel comfortable, making you feel interesting! Undoubtedly, her career in publishing intensified those conversational skills that were, and are, so natively and uniquely hers.

The conversation flew, rapid-fire, from topic to topic. Travel, world events, art ... so much to discuss and always so little time! At dessert time, with barely an interruption to the conversation, Florence handily placed serving bowls of huge-and-juicy strawberries (still wearing their pointy green-stemmed "hats"), golden-brown-and-crystallized sugar and creamy-and-rich yogurt on the table.

As each of us dipped strawberry after strawberry into its coating of yogurt, then brown sugar, we filled the room with talk and laughter. In between, we popped strawberries into our mouths and enjoyed the wonderfully-tasty treat that I will always think of as "Florence's Yogurt Pops"!

I am happy to report that Florence and I continue to keep in touch even though we no longer live in the same city. I am even happier to report that our phone conversations are as rapid-fire and wide-ranging as ever! In addition, the emergence of the Ingredient Sleuth blog has created a new aspect of our friendship.

From time to time, Florence puts on her former publishing hat (figuratively speaking -- at least I don't THINK she has an official publishing hat!), and tells me about something "potentially interesting" that she has encountered. My blog posting regarding chocolate, for example, grew out of her call to alert me to the Field Museum's travelling chocolate exhibit in San Diego (see my post of May 27, 2005).

And so, on this November 4th, I am cheshire-cat pleased and proud to send my happiest birthday wishes to Florence. I don't know if it was the stay-young yogurt on those strawberries or not, but she is as dynamic and sparkly as ever.

"Happy 100th Birthday, Dear Florence!"


jennifer said...

I love to hear about people like your friend. I say "happy birthday to Florence and many more"!!!

doug said...

Wow, what a milestone! Happiest of birthdays to Florence!

marianne said...

Happy, happy birthday to Florence and keep up the good work! :)


Anonymous said...

We've had this yogurt and it's great. The strawberries with yogurt and brown sugar sound good too. And last but not least, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO FLORENCE!

Dennis said...

Way to go, Florence! We send happy birthday wishes to you!

Dennis & Carol

kristi said...

Yogurt & honey is a match made in heaven. Toss on a few walnuts and its even better! Sometimes we can get goatsmilk yogurt and really like that a lot. The kids even like it for a snack after school or before bed. It seems like a healthy alternative compared to other snacks so we have it a lot. Congratulations to Florence and Happy Birthday!

Pat R said...

Happy Birthday to Florence!! You live in a beautiful city. I visited there a few years ago when the new Scripps ocean institute aquarium opened and loved it! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

My daughter makes yogurt at home too and it tastes wonderful. We think that part of the good taste is due to the glass containers rather than the usual j plastic ones you get in the store. I would also like to send the best of birthday wishes to Florence! She sounds like quite a lady!

clotilde said...

Wishes for a happy birthday time to Florence. In French, we say "Bonne Anniversaire"! Have many happy times!

marc&terri said...

We enjoyed the 'tales' very much and are happy to send our wishes for a fantastic birthday celebration to Florence as well! Happy Birthday!

Carolyn said...

First of all a big Happy Birthday to the birthday gal! If she has a publishing hat, I'm sure that it's a stylish one! On the yogurt topic, I think it is a godsend for those of us who love mayo and/or sour cream in salad dressings. I always substitute part of those ingredients with plain lowfat yogurt and the recipes still taste delicious. Sometimes they are even better with the little zing the yogurt adds which is a little like adding a dash of lemon juice. So that's MY yogurt story. ;)

shayne said...

Awesome!! Happy birthday wishes to Florence!!

Kathy, the Single-Minded Offshoot said...

Happy 100th birthday, Florence. I still remember that vacation in La Jolla so many years ago and the wonderful dessert you served us - one of the lovely memories I have of my California vacations to visit the Ingredient Sleuth also known as my little sister. I hope your birthday celebration was as special as your are.

Susan said...

What a nice story. :) I'm inspired to run right out and buy some yogurt. But first .... spectacular wishes for a wonderful happy birthday to Florence!!!!!

Susan said...

It took me a couple of days but I had to let you know that I did go out and get the Spega yogurts and they are just as good as you said they were. Maybe better! The mixed berries flavor is delicious and really tastes like a rich dessert. Thanks for such a good idea.

Darlene said...

If you think you've seen beauty and wonder, try hanging a crystal on a window that gets sunlight flowing in. You'll get rainbows on your walls! Not an uncut crystal, but one of those finished ones that you'll find hanging in displays, usually at greeting card stores. (Hallmark stores used to have them; not sure if they do now). They're usually in the $12 to $20 range, and you don't want a teeny one, but it doesn't have to be real big, either. Just so it has ridges; not smooth all the way around. Believe me, it'll brighten up your life!

eric said...

What a FEEL GOOD blog post this is! Thank you!