Don’t Mess With Her Culture

yogurtWe are a household governed by the rhythms of yogurt. I fed Dubsie the first spoonful when she was six months old (her first taste of sour, you should have seen how her face puckered). The fermented flow has only grown since then. After all,  Dubsie’s maternal lineage is from India, the motherland of yogurt, and everyone is excited these days about probiotics and diversifying your gut colonies.

In January, we expanded from consumption into production. Making yogurt is a point of pride for all the older women in Mummy’s family, some of whom claim that the curd they serve today was seeded decades ago and has been perpetuated ever since in unbroken line of batches. Yogurt, I have learned, can be endlessly replicated as long as a little of the prior batch is left around. Milk is boiled and then cooled to the temperature of baby bathwater, and mixed with the parent culture with bare clean hands. Bacteria ferments the milk’s lactose, which produces lactic acid that reacts with the milk’s protein to make the stiff and creamy product. Timing and temperature are key.

I didn’t know any of this until January, just after Mummy’s grandmother died. Culture would need to be preserved. Mummy acquired some starter from Gomathi, her aunt in New Jersey, and that kept us going for a few months. Then Lilia, our Ukrainian au pair, polished off our supply one day and that lineage was snuffed out.

Next, unbeknownst to TSA, we smuggled a new starter from Mummy’s mother in Seattle. But that strain was a little sour. So now we’ve moved on to a culture that we acquired from Atlanta, from her aunt Gijiperima, who originally brought it from India. We can’t imagine how.

We may keep that strain going for decades, who knows, but this morning we had a scare. Mummy sat bolt upright in bed and realized that she had kept her new batch out overnight at room temperature and hadn’t calculated in the effect of our May heat wave. “Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh…shit!” she yelled as she leaped down the stairs.

I was left in the bedroom with Dubsie, who jumped out of bed and stomped around the room yelling “Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh….shit!” while I stifled my laughter in the pillow. 

Yogurt is a hot enough commodity for Dubsie, who will eat it as fast as we shovel it in her mouth. To manage her excitement we use that time-honored parenting trick: spelling it out. “Is it time for Y-O-G-U-R-T?” we murmur to each other knowingly.

But yogurt, it seems, is not the only thing in our house that is adulterating. “Y-O-G-U-R-T!” Dubsie says. “I want Y-O-G-U-R-T!”


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