This whole idea of stirring paint and putting it in a bag goes all the way back to 1999 when I sold "paint that went on like yogurt" out of the trunk of my car, along with little paint sample pouches to prove it. 

Or so I thought.

In 1973 I fell in love with the word "yogurt" the first time it was offered to me as a snack. Naturally, I imagined it would taste as good as it sounded. The letter "Y" has a "J" curt sound in Spanish, which is very much the opposite of the English language's mellow-yellow sound.

Loved the word, hated the yogurt. 

Once stirred, it was a cold rubbery pink shade that tasted like sour milk mixed with strawberry syrup. Even though I didn't like to eat it, I pretended to because it was an emotionally stirring experience. It reminded me of helping my grandfather paint for the holidays when I was a child.

During the Christmas season in Puerto Rico, there are surprise "asaltos," and you and your house had to be ready to get hit at least once. 

You never knew when friends and neighbors were going to gather quietly outside your home late at night. With musical instruments on hand, they would count to three and break out into traditional Puerto Rican aguinaldos until you opened the door. Preferably after, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. 

The "parranda" or "party parade" continued to grow larger until dawn. A stream of people would pour in, still singing, and raid your house for food and drink. After eating, drinking, dancing, and singing, everyone decided which place to hit next! Most likely, it would be the next-door neighbors who already knew you were coming.  

The last house gotta serve breakfast.

My grandfather made sure our walls were sparkling white for the holidays.

He had his rum and coke on the one hand; on the other, his brush. My job was to help him stir the paint. With every stir, I anticipated a wave of friends and neighbors filling up the house in the middle of the night, drinking and dancing till dawn.

I've told that story hundreds of times.

Back in Oregon, I found myself eating yogurt all the time to relive that memory, and I guess you could say, to keep on stirring!

It wasn't until I began working on my book, Color Baggage, that I researched yogurt's history. 

After all these years, I had no idea! 

Daniel Carasso, a Spaniard from Catalonia, was the father of modern yogurt. He began selling the stuff in Barcelona, naming the venture after his boy, whose name in Catalan was "Danone," or "Danny." 

Mr. Carasso changed the company name to Dannon, which had a better ring to American ears. To make the exotic product more appealing to American taste buds, he and his partners decided to add strawberry jam. 

"Fruit on the Bottom" was enough to turn an immigrant's ethnic food into a favorite American snack. 

Wouldn't you know it, my grandfather's family is from Cataluña. My mother's maiden name, Artau, is Catalan. I was born Gretchen Lizzette Rosario Artau, another immigrant destined to recreate a yogurt experience in America with paint. Not only once but twice.

I guess I wasn't done stirring. 

 And So It Is.

Yours,

G

 


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