Monday, February 2, 2009


Every week in the summer my grandmother made a fresh batch of yogurt in the little glass jars leftover from the time when the store-bought mayonnaise used to come in the little glass jars. She slopped a teaspoon of sour cream at the bottom of each jar and filled the rest with fresh, unpasteurized milk--in the years when fresh, unpasteurized milk was available. Later it became Parmalat, a white-colored liquid that could last three months without refrigeration. She placed the jars on the middle shelf in the small cabinet underneath the eastward-looking window in our stand-alone kitchennette. Or maybe it was the lowest shelf. Whatever it was, it was always the same, and the jars were always arranged in the exact same order, last week's yogurts migrating up to the front and the newest taking their place in line at the back. Her favorite jars--those with no chips--to the left, others to the right. She consumed the yogurt religiously, one jar every day, after supper. I knew she didn't like it because sometimes if my brother and I begged enough we were allowed to skip the dish altogether. Not often, but once in a while, she'd let us eat just the top creamy layer of it, and leave the rest for her to finish up. As a way of encouraging our consumption, she'd let us mix in plenty of sugar. When we grew older and the age of the plastic tubs of foreign-made yogurt descended, we were excused altogether. She frequently procrastinated on eating the home-made yogurt herself. She'd put a little jar in the pocket of her apron--I suppose, the jars were loosely closed with metal caps--and take it up to the house with her at the end of the day. She also brought a teaspoon along. In the house, she'd put the little jar on the table in front of the television, and eat it bit by bit as she watched the evening programming or read the paper.

Lately--long after I've reached adulthood and learned somethings about somethings--I've began to wonder if my grandmother's yogurt routine was maybe a way of prevention or cure for yeast infection. Isn't yogurt the primary home remedy women used to use in the world before the anti-fungal medicine? I remember when my parents first discovered anti-fungal creme to cure my grandfather's crippling case of athelete's foot. That was a big deal, and even though we were not supposed to know anything about it to maintain our childlike innocence, they had difficulty holding back their excitement. I suppose I could ask my mother about this yogurt-yeast infection theory, and maybe I will one day, but somehow, right now, blogging about it in English seems easier than phrasing a direct question in Russian. In fact, I don't even know the name of the condition in Russian, and Wikipidia returns an entirely unfamiliar word. Either they used euphemisms or I was a martian child.

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