On Yogurt

by by Alex Ronan


In the fifties yogurt was hip. Yogurt was so hip it was even spelled yoghurt. Today, yogurt is mainstream, yogurt is banal, yogurt is bourgeoisie.


Then: “Slightly eccentric? Does she read Henry Miller? Adore yoghurt?”

Now: “Cheerful blond woman eating yogurt for a healthy eating concept.”

Then: “partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt.”

Now: “Lovely lady eats nice yogurt.”


Rose and Sarkis Colombosian, Armenian immigrants, fled Turkish persecutors in 1917 and settled on a small dairy farm in North Andover, Massachusetts. They produced more milk than they could use or sell. With Rose’s traditional Armenian recipe, they made extra yogurt to distribute on their milk route.


Colombosian became Colombo since

“no one could pronounce our name.”

“What the hell is that yucky stuff you sell?” neighbors asked.


Colombo was sweetened.

Fruit preserves were added.

“Americans like a lot of sugar.”

Sales soared “like a rocket.” Shoppers would no longer “spit it out.”

In 1951 Dannon announced that yogurt had become “completely Americanized” with a new version containing vanilla flavoring.


And yet,

“it’s cultured to eat culture.”


Yogurt eaters in Los Angeles like fruit-added yogurt.

New Yorkers prefer to do without.

Yogurt is like yoga: whitewashed, commercialized, corporate.

Yogurt has a following.


“Portrait of young female enjoying yogurt.”

“Businesswomen eating yogurt.”

“Lovely lady eats nice yogurt.”

“Cheerful blond woman eating yogurt for a healthy eating concept.”

“The Last Little Bit...Of Yogurt.”

Description: Shallow depth of field with focus on face.


Helen Gurley Brown founded Cosmopolitan Magazine and ate yogurt. She worked 70 to 80 hour weeks. “It was my magazine,” she said.

Associate editors wouldn’t stay so late or work so long. “We would leave at six, have dinner, walk by Cosmo, look up, and see the light on in Helen’s office. You could imagine her up there, eating her yogurt at her desk, typing and writing notes.”


When I worked at a magazine there was always yogurt in the fridge. Mine and someone else’s. And someone else still who said “yogurt is disgusting,” and “yogurt is for control freaks,” and also “women who eat yogurt are control freaks,” which seemed not only redundant but just plain annoying.

I eat yogurt because it tastes good and because it doesn’t require cooking, but I also feel good when I eat yogurt, and simultaneously like I have to defend myself. There is a whisper of something there—the way a woman’s restrictive diet can stand in for some sort of sexual closetedness that I know certain types find attractive.

And plain yogurt, with its simple flavor, is fed to babies, eaten by children, messy and wholesome. These professional women, so sure, so western business casual, with nice pens and jobs, still eat like children, can’t even cook, use the stove for storage. As if that means something more.


“made with real cream it’s so good that yogurt haters can’t believe it’s yogurt”

(advertisement, 1980s)


Sample Case: Swallowing

1. The yogurt “tasted funny” so she did not finish the sample.

2. The yogurt she ate was “gross.”

3. The yogurt “did not taste good and [she] wanted to spit it out but could not find a trash can to do so.”

4. She was told she “had to try the yogurt on the spoon because that’s where the nutrients are.” The substance on the spoon was clear or white and the yogurt was pink so she declined to taste it.

“completely outrageous” “sickening and disgusting”

“he wanted to witness the victim consume his bodily fluid”

Anthony Garcia, of Sunflower Market, is serving two years for serving semen-tainted yogurt samples to female customers.


Curtail. Contain. Commodify.

A culture where women and their preteen daughters wear a blush called orgasm. Where sex is dirty, but inevitable, and girlhood is short. Sometimes I forget that I cannot step into dresses the way I did before hips came and I miss that. When food was simply something to eat and nothing more.

What we want in yogurt is what we want in women: that they be wholesome and American but also maintain something incongruous with that, something foreign, exotic.


One summer afternoon when I was little, I took one pink yogurt and one white yogurt and mixed them in a bowl. No one else was around and the day stretched long ahead, so I worked with precision—using my spoon to carve lines first one way and then perpendicularly, till the bowl was filled with a beautiful marbleized pink and white concoction.

I took to the task of consumption methodically and confidently, without considering that this would mean double the yogurt. Upon realizing that I couldn’t finish it, I was inexplicably despondent. I felt like I could never finish and also that I absolutely had to. Today, couldn’t and must come to me again and always. As for the yogurt, eventually, belly full, I gave up, spooning the rest down the sink.