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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Yogurt in their faces II (yaourtoma)

Last 2 years the act of throwing yogurt (yaourtoma) at politicians became very popular. Expressing deep dissatisfaction and frustration, it is a symbolic form of corporal punishment. But symbolic speech can be powerful and sometimes is more painful than corporal punishment.  Food throwing causes public humiliation and public humiliation is like bad rumors. They both cause loss of prestige. They also set an example for others.

According to an article by Leo Vournelis in
FoodAnthropology "A traditional variety of Greek yogurt, made from sheep’s milk, is the most common food item used in public acts of indignation and resistance, although occasionally eggs and tomatoes have been used in a similar manner."
In fact, Greek protesters don't use only one variety of yogurt. Strained and unstrained yogurt made from cow's milk**, with some made from sheep's milk, are equally popular among them. Of course, strained yogurt sticks to the clothes and hair better.

Fruits, eggs and yogurt are inexpensive, messy but safe items. No one ever died from being pelted with them. But why is there a preferance for yogurt? As Vournelis puts it "To understand why yogurt is the favorite item to be used as a projectile we need to look at the association it has with Greek ethnic identity. The sheep’s milk yogurt in question belongs to a category of objects (feta cheese, olive oil, etc.) that are strongly associated with rurality and by extension with Greekness. Rurality has long been a target of objectification and fetishization in the service of national identity projects. Moreover, certain food items through everyday practices lend themselves to closer associations with ethnicity."

From a practical point of view, yogurt has the advantage that the protesters can throw it without messing themselves up. Apparently they can not quarantee this if they use eggs.


Marianna Kavroulaki
Experimental archaeologist- independent researcher in Greek food history

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