This time we’re talking about feeling good — what an elusive state that is. Just when you think you’ve reached it, it’s gone. The advertising and consuming genii would have you believe that happiness/success/love can be found in this bottle or in that shiny car. Why, if it’s so easy to obtain, do we usually feel so miserable? And what does it mean to feel good?

I contend the “feelin’ good” is, like beauty and reality, all in the eye (I) of the beholder. Each one must find his or her unique way of achieving that state — and maintaining it.

We’ve all tried countless methods and have learned it’s really not so easy. Feeling good means feeling in balance — all parts in harmony and at their best. It does no good to meditate and finally get your spirit almost in that peaceful place if a nagging toothache keeps you from concentrating. (Of course, you may reach that state of enlightenment where the toothache just disappears — then you won’t be needing any of my ideas.) Nor is being a health food fetishist any help if in your self-righteous zeal you turn away those who might bring you wisdom or love or even the secret to feeling good. When I think of ways to use food to feel good, they usually don’t fall into any category. It could be a chocolate malted with all its Proustian overtones. Or it may be a Wildflower salad that tastes as good as it is for me.

I’m not going to advocate one particular food or method for feeling good, but this does seem like an appropriate time to talk about yogurt. Yogurt is not a wonder drug or miracle food; though it is truly good for you, it’s not spectacularly nutritious like brewer’s yeast. And it even takes a while to develop a taste for it. But it’s become a staple in my diet and I think, with these suggestions, you might find it a useful addition to yours. It may even make you feel good.

TO MAKE YOGURT
(cheap and easy)

½ cup powdered milk
⅔ cup milk (whole, skim, etc.)
2 Tblspns. Dannon yogurt (don’t mix in the flavoring)
1 clean, warm jar
1 warm (90-100 degrees) place: warming oven, pot of warm water, in an oven (off) with the light on, etc.

Mix liquid and powdered milk, heat to almost scalding. Cool to lukewarm (drop some on your wrist to test). Mix in the yogurt. Pour into jar. Set in warm place from 2-4 hours. Tilt jar to check consistency. Refrigerate when ready.

You can juggle the liquid/powdered milk proportions any way you like — the powdered milk gives it a custardy consistency. One or two more batches can be made from this quart before you have to buy another Dannon again. This is the cheapest way I know to make it — but if you know a better way let us all know.

What to do with a quart of plain yogurt? My little one loves it mixed with homemade granola and fresh fruit. Chop some chives into it and serve it with baked potato. Mix it half and half with mayonnaise for an unusual salad dressing or spread.

Here’s a simple side dish which should be popular with garlic lovers. It was first prepared for me by a grandmotherly Persian woman who spoke no English but whose cooking spoke eloquently of love (maybe these are the people who should run the U.N.).

SPINACH YOGURT

1 cup chopped, cooked spinach
1 cup yogurt
1 clove garlic

If you are a serious cook, you should have a mortar and pestle for grinding and blending spices. (If you don’t, drop a hint to the next person who compliments you on your cooking — that’s what I did.) Crush up the garlic until it is a paste. Blend it into the spinach and yogurt. That’s all. It can be pretty powerful! You can change the proportions to suit your own palate and eye.

 

Still have some yogurt left? Make a blender drink with a banana, yogurt and orange juice. Or mix in some frozen orange juice concentrate, freeze in ice cube trays with a wooden fork in each cube — voila: healthful popsicles.

Most natural foods cookbooks now have many recipes using yogurt. East Indian cooks consider it a staple — see The Yogi Cookbook. I’m sure you’ll find lots of new ways to use it; and then won’t you share them with me?