With grey skies pressing down on the rooftops of the city, rain streaming down the windows, and nothing interesting to report in my Parisian life, here is a little nugget of information I discovered about one of France's favourite foodstuffs last week.
Supermarkets have entire aisles devoted to it and the average person consumes over 20kg per year (around 7 times the American average) and France is home to two of the world's best known brands. But with the most of the stuff being mass-produced, it's hardly a traditional product with the status of wine, cheese or saucisson. So just why do the French eat so much yogurt?
Well, industrial production or not, it all goes back to the French habit of eating 3 course meals. In the past, at least one meal per day would end with cheese, hence the establishment of dairy products as a key part of the national diet. A grander meal might involve both cheese and desert. But with more sedentary lifestyles and an increasing awareness of the perils of high fat and cholesterol foods, people are reducing their cheese consumption and looking for healthier alternatives. Eating yogurt at the end of a meal fills the criteria of both dairy product and desert, without adding too many calories. Being a source of protein, it fills you up, while the fruit or sugar versions also satisfy a sweet tooth.
Finally, and, critically for the stereotypical parisienne, yogurt is supposedly one of the magic reasons why French women don't get fat. I'm a bit cynical about the truth of this, but I bet it keeps the sales figures high.