Taste Test: The Portable Yogurt That Isn'tS

Go-Gurt's charmingly daft, hilariously unappetizing name implies its creation myth: the notion that, out there in the world, there were consumers who liked feeding their kids delicious, nutritious yogurt, but were frustrated by its cripplingly immobile nature—"I need a portable, on-the-go yogurt!" they groused, bashing their cutlery drawers to splinters. "Every time my kid tries to eat this crap, he crashes his bike into a volcano!"—and the visionaries at Yoplait heard their desperate cries and came up with this revolutionary solution to the problem of stationary, two-handed eating. Yogurt in a tubular plastic bag. Yogurt that you squeeze into your open mouth without being forced to abandon your hang-glider mid-flight. Go-Gurt! The yogurt that goes with you!

Of course, even a half-second of thought reveals both the creation myth and the name itself to be a load of horseshit, for the very simple and rather embarrassingly obvious reason that you can't eat Go-Gurt with one hand—and not only because of the impulse, when eating Go-Gurt, to shield your face from public view. Picture it in your mind, those of you who have not tried Go-Gurt because you tend to stay away from foodstuffs that mark you as foreign to the concept of good taste. Picture holding the tube of Go-Gurt in one hand and attempting to squeeze it into your mouth with that same hand. If your hand is too close to the open end of the tube, squeezing it will force most of the Go-Gurt down toward the other end of the tube, where it is of no use to you. If your hand is too close to the far-off closed end of the tube, squeezing it will indeed propel some Go-Gurt out of the open end and into your mouth; it will also, however, cause the tube to bend at the point at which it leaves your hand, the open end flopping downward, the precious Go-Gurt pooping out onto your Backyardigans onesie.

Even if you hold the open end of the tube between your teeth to give you some leverage, and thereby get one successful squeeze of Go-Gurt into your mouth, you're still left with the problem of needing to reposition your squeezing/holding hand away from the now-empty segment of the tube so that you can squeeze out another dollop of Go-Gurt, and this will require you either to use your second hand to stabilize the tube, or to tilt your head all the way down so that the tube is hanging straight down from your clenched teeth, which is a suboptimal solution in that it will require you to take your eyes off the half-pipe for what might turn out to be the final moments of your life.

No, the only functional way to consume Go-Gurt is with both hands: one hand holding the tube in place and another hand squeezing Go-Gurt from the tube into your mouth as though that is not an objectively absurd and indefensible thing to do. It's not so different from playing the slide-whistle, both mechanically and because no grown-up person who does it regularly should be allowed within several thousand yards of an elementary school.

This is to say, Go-Gurt is not truly revolutionary one-handed eating for the on-the-go XXXtreme child. It is, in fact, every bit as much a two-handed job as the hopelessly outdated cup-and-spoon method, only 10 times more ridiculXXX. Which raises the question of why Go-Gurt is packaged in a floppy plastic tube, after all, if, as we have demonstrated, the floppy plastic tube does not in any meaningful way increase the on-the-go-ness of the yogurt it contains. If the intent is to solve the problem of spoons getting lost whenever parents pack them into lunchboxes along with a little cup of yogurt, I'd offer that the confectioners of the world solved this problem decades ago with the invention of a little disposable wooden paddle-spoon affixed to the paper lid of a small plastic cup of ice cream. So: Why? Why a ridiculous plastic tube of yogurt? The answer: because of what Go-Gurt tastes like.

I don't know a whole lot about yogurt—I know that, in most of its guises, it tastes good—and even less about how it is made. I know that there are cows involved. Is that right? Yogurt comes from milk? Yes? Probably? OK. So I know that. I dunno, that probably doesn't make me an expert on yogurt. So I'd probably be overstepping my bounds a little bit if I started saying this is yogurt and that's not yogurt, but it has to mean something—has to!—that, when I tasted some Go-Gurt this week, the top of my skull cracked open and a dragon flew out and wrote THIS SHIT IS NOT YOGURT in the sky with fire.

Look. My house contains yogurt. Relatively speaking, because it also most often contains two small children who are quite fond of the stuff and two haggard adults who are happy to insert into those children's faces whatever will stop high-pitched shrieks from coming out of them, it probably contains what could be considered quite a lot of yogurt. Still, given the sheer quantities of lumber, drywall, copper wiring, insulation, and Play-Doh it also contains, you'd probably have to fight pretty hard to subdue your side-eye if I told you that I lived in a yogurt house, right? Somewhere along the continuum between, say, a container of 100-percent pure, unadulterated, unflavored yogurt and a view of the entire Earth from the surface of the moon, there is a threshold that divides things that can reasonably be described as yogurt, or yogurt that also contains other things, from things that, whether or not they may contain some yogurt, are not themselves yogurt. I'm not sure exactly where this threshold is (again: not a yogurt expert), but I am fairly sure that the aforementioned container of pure yogurt is on one side of it and floppy plastic tubes of Go-Gurt are on the other, with bananas and Alan Alda and lasers and all the other things.

That's not necessarily a condemnation of Go-Gurt. As you might be surprised to learn, there are lots of perfectly decent, respectable, even delicious things, which nevertheless are not yogurt. Some of them don't even contain yogurt! An individual tube of Go-Gurt, on the other hand, probably does contain some yogurt. Based on what it tastes like and feels like in your mouth, an individual tube of Go-Gurt also contains many other, more frightening things—some of which would (probably) produce a lively beat on your handy Geiger Counter—along with all the sugar in the fucking universe. Which, given that it contains, at most, what, a couple of tablespoons of real, actual yogurt, means that it can't really be more than, say, 0.00000000000002 percent yogurt. There really is a lot of sugar in the entire universe.

That is to say, Go-Gurt is sweet. Dear, dear God, is it ever sweet. You buy a big family-sized box of tubes of the stuff and the tubes announce themselves as having flavors like "Strawberry Splash" and "Berry Blue Blast" and "Rad Raspberry" and "Communion With The Succubi," but then you tear one open and slurp down a mouthful of it and all you can taste is holy fucking shit my teeth just dissolved oh God my feef divovved. Sugar. That is what Go-Gurt tastes like. Sugar with maybe the faintest soupçon of aggressively, sneeringly artificial fruit flavoring. Like a cheap amusement park popsicle in opaque gel form. Only, y'know, even weirder and more unsettling than that.

Of course small children, being small children, will love it for all of these qualities, and will be perfectly happy to make horrible banshee noises at their parents and other guardians until permitted to eat it. The challenge this presents to the people at Yoplait is how to sneak this unholy sugar/yogurt/congealed-alien-blood/pink-food-coloring colloid past the parental figures in the first place, so that small children can taste it, detect in it the presence of all the sugar in the entire universe, and decide that it is all they wish to eat for the rest of their lives. And this, ultimately, explains both A) why Go-Gurt is marketed as yogurt, and B) why it is packaged in a preposterous plastic tube festooned with obnoxious cartoon characters.

See, the thing is, parents like the idea of feeding their children yogurt: It's got calcium, and protein, and riboflavin, and B vitamins, and, y'know, uh, probiotics or cultures or whatever—the point is, it is not toast, and every now and then it is good to give children something other than toast, especially if it contains impenetrable health-words like "riboflavin." And parents will happily pump their children full of yogurt, so long as the children seem to enjoy it—especially if the children are drooling, shaking uncontrollably, and clawing at the door of the refrigerator in manic frenzy, as they will do for Go-Gurt, because again: opaque popsicle gel.

However, parents also occasionally like to eat yogurt themselves, and this is a grave threat to Go-Gurt, because any grownup could tell after a microsecond of hosting the stuff on her palate that Go-Gurt is not only not yogurt, but also not nutritious, not healthful, and not unlikely to cause her to grow a scrotum on the back of her head. The rather ingenious way that the makers and packagers and marketers of Go-Gurt have addressed this problem is to put their viscous, saccharine space-mud in a floppy, cartoonishly-colored, patently stupid plastic tube festooned with cartoon characters, where it cannot be extracted save by a bottomlessly undignified slide-whistle technique certain to mark any adult seen performing it as an escapee from a grim far-off madhouse.

You see? The cartoon characters, the wild colors, the names like "Watermelon Meltdown" and "Cool Cotton Candy" and "Pretty Much Like Swallowing An Entire Village Of Bratz Dolls": these are things that produce, simultaneously, an incredibly powerful oh fuck yes! response in young kids and an equally powerful never in my life! response in adults. We buy it for the kids; we never bring a single tube of it closer than arm's length to our faces, lest there be any photographers lurking nearby; we congratulate ourselves on feeding our children "yogurt." We're happy not to know the evil that lurks within. And so: kids eat, and are enslaved by, Go-Gurt; adults are never the wiser.

You can picture the breakthrough moment for the laboratory scientists and cold, soulless marketing cyborgs at The Faceless All-Spanning Corporation That Owns Yoplait Among All Other Things. For weeks and weeks they'd considered what they had on their hands: an incredibly potent, vaguely yogurt-like substance irresistible to any human being under the age of 14. How to sell it? How to slip it under the parental radar? And then, the lightbulb, the idea, the frantic joyous race to the Big Boss's office to break the news: "By God," they gasp, cheeks red, pupils dilated, ecstatic. "We've got it, sir! A tube! A ridiculous rainbow-colored tube! A tube with SpongeBob and Nickelodeon and shit all over it! A stupid floppy tube you have to hold in both hands, and you have to hold your head back and tilt the tube over your mouth like you're rocking out a badass slide-whistle solo just to eat it! It's the dumbest thing ever! The parents won't eat it; the kids won't be able to stop! It can't miss!"

"Yezzzzzzzzz ..." he replies, methane-inflated brain-bag pulsating rhythmically, tentacles wriggling in triumph, swirling the mist from his sulfur respirator. "Yezzzzzzzz."

Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home. Peevishly correct his foolishness at albertburneko@gmail.com. Top image by Jim Cooke.