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  • Writer's pictureAli Tadlaoui

The Fruits of your Labor...making homemade yogurt

I've started making my own Icelandic style yogurt, or skyr. It's a simple process, but it does take time. I have to plan ahead to have it ready 36 to 48 hours from the time I start heating the milk. The recipe calls for less time, but my way makes the yogurt thick enough for the spoon to stand straight up in it. I eat yogurt every day so my batch lasts less than a week, which means I'm always thinking about it. It's an unnecessary pre-occupation. Or is it? Well, maybe not this specific routine, but some regular, food-centered project of conceiving, planning, tending, just fussing over in general, seems important.

Making homemade skyr does save a bit of money. But that's not the larger reason for doing it. I do have control over my yogurt. I've experimented with the fat level in the milk. I've toyed with the amount of time my pot of bacteria-laced milk (half a gallon of milk and a few ounces of yogurt mixed in) sits in the warmest closet we have, wrapped in a blanket to stimulate fermentation and propagation. Some days my yogurt tastes better than store-bought, but not always. It is always thicker, though, and satiating. I take pleasure in peeling slabs of it from the cheesecloth, and wonder each time if I should do something with the two cups of whey that collect in a bowl under the colander. But, the largest reason for making my own skyr, I now see a few months in, is that I'm vested in my food more closely, like a farmer invests in his land. With homemade skyr in particular, I also feel I'm tapping into some ancient, magical ritual of creation every time.

This introspection was brought on by a brief story I read this week in The Counter commenting on a story published in The New York Times the week before about the difficulty of eating different fruits found in Bangkok's Talad Thai market. "Eating Thai Fruit Demands Serious Effort but Delivers Sublime Reward" discusses the experience of encountering, "harvesting," and consuming jackfruit, durian, mangosteen, rambutan, and langsat; fruits the majority of us in America haven't tried or don't eat regularly. Apparently, you do have to muscle through the thick hide of a jackfruit to get to the orb-shaped fruit. The mangosteen dyes your fingernails purple and you likely have to peel and eat several to find a delectable one. And, if you haven't been in its presence before, the funky aroma of durian is disarming and may dissuade you from experiencing its custardy texture and approachable flavor.

In the end, the NYT article author wonders whether it's worth the effort. The last line in the article in The Counter takes this author to task, commenting, "These objections seem to come not from interviewees on the ground, but from the reporter herself. One wonders: Are all these fruit problems, or are they you problems?" I get the point. At a time when we should be celebrating our differences, not letting them divide us, one should try to check one's prejudices, or at least acknowledge them. What might be labor for some is a labor of love for others.

Never having taken a hatchet to a jackfruit, or pricked my fingers peeling a lychee-like rambutan, I can't say I fully appreciate the effort that goes into eating fruit with a "grapple factor," but my sense is that the ritual alone is vital to enjoying life's bounty, and mystery, in all the places life markets itself.

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