For most of my life, I didn’t eat yogurt. When I finally started, I quickly made up for lost time. For the past few years, I’ve eaten at least one serving of yogurt per day, but sometimes upwards of five. Like any fiend, I’ll take my fix however it comes—Chobani, Fage, Siggi’s, or store brand. I care less about “Which yogurt?” and more about “How much?” In a pinch, I’ll down a single-serve peel-top from the bodega, but when the stars align and I’m granted my druthers, the yogurt I want is in the giant tub.
All hail the giant tub—thirty-two ounces of live and active cultures! Glory be to the giant tub, a vegetarian protein heavy hitter. Your average big tub of full-fat Greek is good for eight hundred calories, more than enough fuel for a walk to the store to pick up more tubs of yogurt. Every step I take, every move I make, it’s all just yogurt displaced. I’m not a human, I’m a machine—converting spoonful of yogurt into energy into hunger for more yogurt, trailing plastic tubs in my wake.
Like anyone else, I’ve been known to drum up an arbitrary metric to measure the passing of time. Be it truths learned, times cried, height markings on a door frame, or the digital readout on a Fitbit, there’s solace to be found in finding a way to sort then into then and now into now. But while most make peace with the reality of looming death by counting daylights, or sunsets, or midnights, or cups of coffee, I mark my years in empty plastic tubs. How I love those polypropylene fossils—their slick outsides, their stackable shape, the way they tumble from my cabinets for want of better storage. They’re recyclable, though I could never. I’d sooner stop eating yogurt altogether than throw my tubs away—which is to say, I will never part with my hoard of spent containers. For now, they fill a single shelf. Soon, a cabinet. Maybe someday a walk-in closet.
“What are you planning to do with them?” my roommate asks weekly, weakly, losing hope.
“Collect them!” I say, as I scrub another tub of La Yogurt and set it in the dish rack to dry. My collection grows more diverse each day, with representation from every brand, style, and fat percentage. (I also curate a subsidiary collection of empty cottage cheese and labneh containers, though their narrower aperture pleases me less.) Some find themselves mythically drawn to the hourglass shape of a Coke bottle, but I only have eyes for the thick girth of a Trader Joe’s Cream Top. I hold the container in my hands and my touching fingers draw a perfect circumference of the lid. I am the Vitruvian Man of cultured dairy packaging. Collecting yogurt containers is my destiny.
Apparently, it’s genetic. When my great-grandmother died, she left cupboards overflowing with washed-out containers. Save for a single twenty-year-old freezer-burnt steak, her apartment was otherwise tidy, and mine is the same. In general, I’m not a hoarder. I’m unsentimental, so much so that I’ll trash a birthday card upon receipt. I avoid anything that might become clutter, but my yogurt containers are not. They are trophies from a game that no one else is playing. The only rule is keep eating yogurt, and I am winning.
Of course, if I ever did decide to put my containers to use, the Internet is rife with suggestions, all of which are bad. Sure, I could use the tubs to start seeds for a garden, but I’ve never heard of any seed that grows yogurt. Many suggest using the containers to store bulk food, but what food besides yogurt is worth buying in such quantities? If Big Yogurt would man up and start selling their product in excess of thirty-two ounces, I could probably get into creative reuse. When I lay me down to sleep, I dream of a world where an upcycled yogurt container hot tub is possible.
But for now, as I see it, the only good yogurt life hack is a death hack. When I leave this earth, inter my ashes in an empty tub of Whole Foods’s 365 Everyday Value Organic Maple Vanilla Lowfat. Divide the rest of my collection between family and friends, so they can remember me always by the thing I loved most.