Saturday 01 Oct 2016

Bacteria and Greece
David Simmonds

You know what the current big food thing is, of course, because like me you’ve tried it and you think: how can it be that something that tastes like cheesecake be good for me?

I’m talking, of course, about Greek yogurt.   On September 3, the Globe and Mail had this to say.   “You are attracted by its low-fat content and high protein.  But what really seals the deal is the thick, creamy taste.   You are in a full-blown relationship with Greek yogurt.   And if you’re not, chances are you soon will be, as consumption of the trendiest fermented milk product continues to skyrocket.”    

All is not well in bacteria land. There is a difference of opinion as to what constitutes “Greek” yogurt. It seems to be agreed that all Greek yogurt has to be strained to remove the liquid whey that regular yogurt contains. However, some makers remove whey from the yogurt after fermentation, some add milk protein powder and some put the milk through an ultrafiltration process before fermentation.  

Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it, but according to the Globe, a class action lawsuit has already been brought against the Yoplait company for adding milk protein powder to what it claims is Greek yogurt.  Companies that don’t use the questioned techniques are crying foul.   Sounds like the Wild West, to me. 

I have a suggestion to make that might resolve the situation and provide some additional benefits as well.    Let’s ask the Greeks to tell us what exactly Greek yogurt is. They must have invented the stuff, because I can’t imagine the Russians inventing it and saying to themselves, “Gosh, this stuff is terrible, let’s call it Greek yogurt and forget we ever came near it.”  Although a stunt like that is not without precedent: the Belgians were said to have invented the French fry.

While we’re at it, why don’t we let Greece in on an opportunity to get some sort of royalty for selling yogurt, using ‘officially approved Greek government processes.’    After all, the poor Greeks have the boot of German fiscal restraint firmly planted on their throats.  It’s not as if the Greeks are about to start making cars that will make BMWs look like Ladas.  They did pretty well give western civilization its culture, of which yogurt is but one manifestation.  

Besides, when you see how jealously the Olympic Games organization drives little Mom and Pop ‘Olympic Pizzerias’ to take down their signs, you would think that the Greeks would have some proprietary right to prevent the word ‘Greek’ from being used without their permission, and to get in on the financial action when they did.   I seem to recall that the region of Champagne, France was successful in preventing anyone other than local producers from describing their wine as “champagne,” so a precedent exists.

If for some reason they couldn’t extract a royalty, perhaps they could turn to royalty itself.  The Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles issue all kinds of royal “warrants” allowing certain firms to promote themselves as “official suppliers” of such items as gin, wellington boots and highland dress.   What’s to stop our friends in Greece from doing the same; nothing, but Greece is not a constitutional monarchy: it has a royal family, which is not recognized as such by the state.  I do grant that there is little traction to be gained by being an ‘official supplier to the government of Greece, whoever it may be at the moment.’ Maybe the Greeks should ask Prince Philip, who has a Greek background, to name his own official supplier of Greek yogurt, if they can wait long enough behind the lineup of applicants to become official supplier of swimwear to the Queen’s grandsons.

Unfortunately, this saga does not look like it will end happily. The Globe concludes that whatever process may be used, Greek yogurt “is a product that may taste delicious, but won’t do you many favours, health wise.”    It tastes like cheesecake because it has about as many calories.  It’s not a healthy snack; it’s a dessert. The fad will pass.  

What does Greece do?  Any country that can give the world moussaka and baklava, never mind those three amigos Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, is going to be around for the long haul.  As H.R.H. Pavlos, Prince of Greece, non-constitutional, of course, writes “we need to work together, encourage honest government, and impress non-Greeks around the world that we are worthwhile ... because we are."   You bet.  

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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