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Snapshots from Greece: Fage Yogurt

"It seems to spark an obsessive quality in people."

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20090713-fage2.jpgAs a Fage enthusiast, I was pretty excited to visit the yogurt's motherland. Within the first few hours of arriving in Greece, I wandered into a corner convenience store and zeroed in on the fridge section. There it was in Greek letters: ΦΑΓΈ (pronounced fah-yehhh).

Greeks eat yogurt around the clock: at breakfast (even though they're not big breakfast people), as a snack, and definitely for dessert. To counter the tartness, they pour on the honey. Greeks have a lot of pride in their honey, especially thyme honey, claiming it's some of the best golden sticky stuff in the world. Because of the country's long sunshine periods, the Greek bees can buzz around to all kinds of plants.

It was kind of surprising to find out that Fage is made of cow’s milk (approximately four pounds go into just one pound of yogurt, which is why it's so insanely thick). Greeks don't eat a lot of beef—it's a pretty lamb-intensive diet with more seafood in the coastal regions. But the cows that are around must be keeping Fage in business.

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Fage has only been in the U.S. market since 2001, but originated in 1926 on a small dairy in Athens. As Greece's biggest dairy company, Fage also produces cheese (obviously feta, in addition to other lesser-known Greek kinds like graviera and trikalino) and milk, which I've never spotted in the U.S.

But let's be honest—it's all about the yogurt. It seems to spark an obsessive quality in people. Is it the cream cheese–caliber thickness that somehow doesn't leave you feeling grossly heavy? Is it the lack of corn-syrupy sweetness usually found in other packaged yogurts? Is it the fact that you drop $2 for a little tub and feel like the splurge has to be pretty awesome? (Note: it wasn't any cheaper in Greece.) Is it the weird, crusty white film that dries on your spoon afterward? Oh, Fage. All the other yogurts bow down to you.

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