Cuban Yogurt, Better Than a Fine Cigar
Bev Vines-Haines
Dorsal Winner
During my Junior year of high school, my civics teacher, Sophia Arenas, had two passions: her childhood in Cuba and yogurt.  Those obsessions made her an easy target for distractions from tests and lessons.  At least three times a week she expounded on the exploits of an emerging Fidel Castro.  Once she mentioned her homeland, she would get a faraway look in her eyes and lick her lips.  


She would say, "Is it true?  Could it be true?  None of you have tasted yogurt?"   We would shake our heads.  This was 1958, years before flavored yogurts and probiotics lined all dairy shelves.   

Miss Arenas loved to teach but her political positions were driven by her love for Cuba and a sincere belief Fidel Castro would save her country and her people.  I remember telling my father about Castro at dinner one night.  He just glowered.  "You tell your starry eyed teacher that man is going to become a dictator.  Before it's all said and done he'll destroy her little paradise."   

I think about Ms. Arenas often these days.  I spend most days on a computer doing research for The Boston Globe.  I know she would have loved the instant communication, non-stop news coverage and endless hyperbole.   Her world was different, less harried.  She waited for word from family, weaving personal letters she received in with the facts she found on the evening news or combed from three daily newspapers.  She filtered every detail through love, faith and optimism.  Clearly I never shared my father's opinions with her even though I suspected even then he was correct.   

The yogurt issue was different.  It became her third passion to teach us to love it.  She decided to make it for us and bring it as an end of the year treat.  She warned us it was tart and yet delicious and healthy.  Most days she added a yogurt fact to our lessons or simply piqued our interest with promises of a food so angelic we would instantly fall in love.  She told us she would bring recipes and instructions so we could create our own.   

The day for the yogurt tasting finally arrived.  Ms. Arenas lugged in a small refrigerator, a large pile of ceramic bowls borrowed from the school cafeteria and a cloth bag filled with ornate spoons.  She was flushed and excited; I could see her pulse throbbing in her temples.    

Looking back I guess the yogurt experience ended as badly as the one with Castro.  To a student, we hated it.  We could feel her disappointment. As for me, in spite of her enthusiasm, she ruined my taste for yogurt for life.   

First published: May, 2012
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