Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Greek yoghurt (Στραγγιστό γιαούρτι)

Greek yoghurt is so popular all over the modern world that it is now a buzzword in culinary circles. Greek yoghurt doesn't have to be made with Greek milk, but it does have to be made in Greece, according to a recent UK court ruling. The strained creamy-style yoghurt goes by the name of 'Greek yoghurt' outside Greece, but there is a case here for inappropriate labelling: Perhaps each brand of thick and creamy strained yoghurt could more properly be labelled 'Greek-style yoghurt', in order not to confuse it with yoghurt actually made in Greece. At any rate, not all strained yoghurt is made with milk produced in Greece - that's just part and parcel of a globalised market.

In this direction, the Chobani yoghurt company, which makes its yoghurt in the US, was deemed as using misleading wording in describing the products it was selling in the UK as 'Greek yoghurt'. It now calls its yoghurt 'strained' instead of 'Greek'. That seems to make some sense. It fits in with the 'Swiss chocolate' concept. Swiss chocolate is made in Switzerland, even though the chocolate used to make it is produced outside Switzerland. But what about 'Greek yoghurt' made by FAGE in the US (FAGE was the one who boughtt he court case against Chobani in the first place)? Can that still be called 'Greek'? What applies in one country does not necessarily apply in another country.

Care has been taken by the ad makers to recreate old Greece. It's actually done so well that the cellphone ringtone spoils the nostalgia effect of the colours and tones used in the video.

Talking about misleading labelling, the latest UK ad for Greek yoghurt borders on this. It has been made by the (in)famous (formerly Greece-based) yoghurt company FAGE, for the UK market. The ad contains dramatic Greek village scenery reminiscent of former times. It starts off by showing a raggedy-clothed runty-looking Greek boy in a sun-drenched Greek mountain village environment letting a cow out of a gated paddock and into the untamed countryside. Then the boy runs back to his crumbling stone house with the sunken tiled roof, calling out in emergency mode to his mother, who appears from behind the shutters of a glassless window of a crumbling stone house, wearing a scarf on her head and a dress style still sometimes seen on nonegenarian Greek grandmothers (except that it isn't black)
Strained yoghurt is often used to accompany rice-based dishes in Greece.
She shakes her head with a worried look (as if the loss of the cow signals the road to hunger) as the boy tells her that the cow has run away (when all the while he actually let the cow out himelf) and reassures her, with an air of post-WW2 responsibility seen in children who grew up too fast without a sense of childhood, that he will run after the animal and make sure that the cow comes back home.
Strained yoghurt always tops souvlaki/gyro.
While the boy is making his marathon journey to find with the cow, he passes a man on a donkey making his way along a narrow village road, a black-robed priest manually ringing the bell of a stone church, a woman beating her rugs against the wall of her earthquake-risk house, black bra swaying on a clothesline hooked up to an electricity pole (this should have aroused suspicions on the viewer's part), until he finally catches up with the cow, which happens to be standing outside the butcher's store, just as the butcher - wearing a heavily blood-stained apron - is brandishing his knives.
My family's summer evening dish often consists of strained yoghurt with fruit and/or muesli.
The boy leads the cow back through olive fields and aromatic shrubs to the gated paddock and enters his dark cold stone house. We then see him sitting down at the wooden table, smiling as his mother rewards him for bringing the cow back home with a luscious-looking bowl of 'Greek yoghurt' topped with fresh fruit, nuts and honey. Just as the lad takes in his first spoonful of that enticing bowl of creamy goodness, his mother's cell phone rings.

You may be thinking that I am judging FAGE too harshly, by denouncing its efforts in mixing the very old nostalgic Greece (the one many of our mass-tourism package-tour visitors still associate with Greece) with the very new globalised Greece, but that's because we haven't come to the ad's punchline, which appears on the screen only two seconds after the cellphone starts ringing:

TOTAL Greek yoghurt - unchanged since 1926

Really? Was FAGE using French and German milk since then too?

In case you didn't realise, FAGE Greece never uses milk produced in Greece to produce its strained yoghurt for the Greek market - for the last 2-3 years, it's been65% German and 35% French. And in Greece, we never call Greek yoghurt 'Greek' - we call it 'strained' (στραγγιστό).

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