Your RDA of Irony

The Glory That Was Greek Yogurt

greek yogurt amphora greyThanks to the inundation of advertising, we all are  convinced that Greek and yogurt are actually one word.  Yes, yogurt’s active culture is Hellenism.   Let us consider the glory that was Greekyogurt. Although archaeologists have yet to find any yogurt amphora with pictures of Olympic champions, it is obvious that only a diet of curdled milk would give anyone the physique for nude athletics.  Plato clearly implies yogurt’s benefits over hemlock.  Nor did Christianity deter the Greek worship of yogurt.  The schism between Rome and Constantinople was whether gelato or frozen yogurt was served at the Last Supper.

Unfortunately,  not a word of this is true.  In fact–and a very awkward fact it is–yogurt is a Turkish word.

Historically speaking (and that is my fluent language) Dannon actually was a Turkish yogurt. Dannon is a nickname for Daniel, a member of the Carasso family. The Carassos had the yogurt business as a sideline for the members of the family not bright enough for medical school.  Yes, Carasso does sound Spanish; after 14 centuries in Spain, the Carassos would have agreed. However, the Inquisition did not.  So the Carassos found haven in the Ottoman Empire…and settled in Salonika, the major city of …well, that depends.  A Greek would insist that it was “northern Greece”.  A Turk would say “southwest Thrace.”  While the Turks had the better army, Thrace it was!

But in 1912, the Greeks decisively had the better army.  The Balkan War gave Salonika to Greece, and the  Carasso Family was presented with the opportunity of rebranding their product as Greek yogurt. Instead, they fled the country.  The Greeks had a long history of Anti-Semitism.  Who do you think invented the word?  The antipathy predated A.D.–and no one ever accused us of crucifying Apollo.

The Greek government did promise religious tolerance to its new subjects in Salonika, and actually kept its word.  But the Carassos were not willing to take that chance.  They migrated to western Europe.  First, they moved to Spain.  Had they forgotten why they left?   The Expulsion was still on the books–although not enforced.  Aside from their precarious status, the Carassos found that Spain was not quite aware of the Industrial Revolution.  It was no place for a 20th century factory.  However, France was; so the Carassos moved there but Gallicized the company with the name Danone.  (The marketing department called it Dannon for American pronunciation.)

And that is why you thought yogurt was French–and why Danone claimed to be…at least until now.  Oy Opa!


  1. TonyHuf says:

    I enjoyed this potted history.

  2. Renee K says:

    Fascinating as usual. Love being able to share these little tales of history at the random cocktail party or two. Thanks for the “re”-education. The things that I learn on your site are far more interesting than what we learned in school.

  3. kathy says:

    -i love middle eastern food so that explains yougurt,k

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