Thursday, March 7, 2013

The 11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Eat Coffee Yogurt

Go figure. That is what I said to my sister Bev when she laughingly imparted a story about her recent trip to the local Snider’s Supermarket in Chevy Chase, MD.

There she was in the dairy aisle rummaging through the rows and rows of Dannon yogurt in search of her favorite flavor, when a clerk came up to her and said, “What flavor are you looking for?”

“Coffee,” she said.

“Are you Jewish?”

“Am I Jewish?” she reiterated.

“Yes, well…Jewish people love coffee yogurt.”

“Really?” said Bev.

“Yes, especially New York Jews. Are you originally from New York?”

We did grow up in a New York suburb, our refrigerator packed with Dannon coffee yogurt. But, we never put the two together. Jews and pastrami on rye, Jews and pickled herring, Jews and seltzer – yes. But, Jews and Dannon coffee yogurt? Who knew?

The refrigerator of my Jewish, depression-raised parents is always stacked with coffee yogurt. While my mom is the resident daily consumer, my dad is the bulk shopper, reputed to buy a dozen at a time – more if they are on sale. And, my mom’s friends, Sarah, Naomi, Gladys, etc. all eat Dannon coffee yogurt, mostly for lunch, and with abissel almonds or granola. I know – I am a witness.

My own Chappaqua fridge, too, is rarely without. I always buy a bunch because it seems to be in short order. A typical shopping day at the A&P finds the coffee row empty – in its place a plethora of Light and Fit Lemon Chiffons, Fruit-on-the-Bottom Boysenberries and the probiotic good-for-your-tummy Activa flavors. My husband agrees. He is also known to stock up.

When my daughter Amanda was eight, she was given her first sneak-taste of Dannon coffee by my mother – much to the dismay of my otherwise caffeine-fanatical husband. Sure enough, it was love at first bite. Could there be a coffee yogurt gene?

I decided to do some research outside of my immediate family. First, I asked my Jewish friends if they shared my passion for this luscious, caramel-colored fermented milk.

My friend Bonnie is a self-proclaimed addict. Apparently, she is a two-cup a-day-er. One 6 oz. cup doesn’t cut it, even for her 100 lb. frame.And, the way she eats it matches my own.

“It should be eaten ice cold,” said Bonnie. “I stick it in the way back of my refrigerator where it is the coldest. And, if I pull one out to eat, and the phone starts ringing, I put it back in until I am done talking.”
I nod. “Yes. It has to be ice cold, with the top almost a solid cream. If I remember, I put mine in the freezer 15 minutes before I am going to eat it.”

I also hit up many of my gentile friends….Trisha complained of the after-taste and the other dozen or so had either never tried it, or had no visceral passion.

Searching the blogosphere I immediately found this entry on Amazon’s “Al Dente’s Blog: Always on my Shopping List.” A female Brooklynite wrote, “I have loved Dannon's coffee all my life. I understand they don't sell it everywhere, but they've had it here in New York for forty years at least. I used to get it in 16-oz containers, but now I can only get it in those tiny 6-oz ones. Boo!”

So, what is up with those tiny, un-filling 6 oz. containers? And, how about the addiction factor? Could a 6 oz. cup of coffee yogurt, a mereforschpiece, contain enough caffeine to cause an addiction? Turns out asix-ounce container of Dannon Lowfat Coffee Yogurt only contains a mere 36 mg of caffeine. So, if my cat ate a whole container, he would only sleep 15 hours a day.

I decided to also do a little research on Dannon the company, which, sure enough, has Jewish roots. In 1929 Daniel Carasso, a Spanish Jew, expanded his family's business by setting up Danone in France. Fleeing France during World War II, he founded Dannon, the first American yogurt company, in New York. And, it appears that market share is still stronger in the East, home of most U.S. Jews.

In a last ditch effort (which I guess should have been my first), I contacted Dannon’s PR department. They weren’t able to confirm that coffee yogurt was more popular in the New York-area (I was too chicken to pin them down on the Jewish factor), but did offer up that they don’t market by flavor. To show their appreciation for my interest, they sent me coupons and a Dannon t-shirt.

So, I know there is probably nothing really scientific going on here -- just some oddly compelling Seinfeld-ian evidence. My sample size is too small, too local, too female, too Jewish. But, for the record, I may be on to something, and I am here to say…

Move over matzah balls and Shalom to kasha varnishkas! Say hello to Dannon coffee yogurt, the new Jewish food.

Audrey Mann Cronin
March 2, 2012
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