Acknowledged, first, that the act of signing into a law an “official state food” is an act of pure legislative silliness and civic boosterism. It doesn’t mean much that the state muffin of Vermont is blueberry, nor that the state pastry of Wisconsin is the kringle. In fact the official beverage of twenty states is milk. (In Alabama it’s Conecuh Ridge Whiskey, so that’s something.) You can eat and drink Hot Pockets and Koolaid exclusively in all fifty states if you want, and no legal body will stop you. God Bless America.
And yet, and yet. The announcement this morning that Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law that the New York State snack is yogurt, well, it rankles. Let’s be clear: I have nothing against yogurt. I eat that fermented dairy good stuff on the daily, usually in the morning, sometimes for lunch, on very rare occasions frozen for dessert. The idea is cute. It came from a fourth grade classroom. It’s a tip of the hat to dairy farmers, which Cuomo explicitly acknowledged in his speech on the subject.
But yogurt? Who, outside of the fourth-grade classroom, really considers yogurt a snack? Yogurt is a side dish, perhaps, or a good way to start the morning. It is not a snack in the purest form. A snack should be something that doesn’t require utensils. A snack should be something that doesn’t necessarily require refrigerators. Apples, already New York’s state fruit, are a snack. Popcorn, taken by Illinois, is a snack. I guess it’s better than Utah’s snack, Jell-O. But only barely.
People, the state of New York is full of richer snacking possibilities than a cup of Yoplait. Here in New York City alone, there are entire empires of snackdom. Here, you can get snacks from Trinidad, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Italy. You could spend decades and not consume every variety of snack available. But even focusing locally, there are richer choices. The Nuts 4 Nuts carts with their crunchy, spicy, honey-glazed options, the slowly ebbing wave of cupcakes, the artisanal pretzels and pickles and popsicles, are all these not better options than yogurt? How about pizza, which could have happily satisfied the dairy farmers and the fourth grade classroom both? New Yorkers, our government has underestimated us. We underestimate ourselves. We can do better than yogurt.
Follow Margaret Eby on Twitter @margareteby.