I have taken a liking - a very, very strong liking - to laban. Originally it was something I purchased on mistake. Kind of sort of. We needed milk. There was no Nada milk. There was no Nadac [another brand that I don't like as much, but which will do when there is no Nada] milk, either. For two days our Commissary had NO milk. It happened a few years ago. Quite a few.
We were still relatively new here and I knew NO Arabic. So, I asked at the Customer Service counter if there was milk and I just didn't know what I should be looking for. "Oh, yes, Madam. We have milk." Good. Where? "On the shelf." And he did not mean the dairy [cooler] shelf. Milk on a shelf. Oh, I don't think so. There are boxes of milk here called "long-life shelf milk." I won't even drink it in my coffee if there is nothing else. I'll drink coffee black, first. That stuff - the long-life shelf milk - is just plain nasty. Naively I asked if there was milk in the dairy section. Duh. If you didn't see anything that looked like milk when you checked two minutes ago, chances are there isn't any milk in the dairy section.
A nice young man took me to the dairy section and pointed to a square carton and said, "Laban, Madam." Milk? "Yes. Laban." Sure. Alright then. I'll try it. Bought it, brought it home. Poured it - started to pour it - on cereal. Oh My YUCK! It is SOUR milk. No wonder it was on the shelf and not selling. Should have checked the date, first. [I just barely knew my numbers - which I taught myself - while walking The Boy in the mornings by looking at house number signs.] Great. Still no milk. Sometime later I did the same thing. Bought laban when there was no milk. Surely that first time was a fluke - that it was sour milk. And by sour I mean by smell and thickness. Only sour milk is that thick. Only sour milk smells like that. [Milk, in Arabic, is haleeb not laban.]
Things have certainly changed. I was at an Arabic coffee a couple of years ago where laban was served in little stemmed glasses. Picture a juice glass with a stem. Oooh. Pretty. It was the first "beverage" served. It would have been most impolite to not partake. When you are offered something you take it. Graciously. Just good manners. So I did. And took a sip like the other women did. Hmmph. Hey, what do you know? This stuff is actually not bad. I had it again shortly after that when it was served to us on a Qatar flight. This time, though, I had a choice of the laban, fresh-squeezed orange juice or sparkling water. I chose the laban.
Seems to me that laban is something that you acquire a taste for. It is a little like buttermilk. But not really. Buttermilk's consistency, but a different taste. Buttermilk? As far as I am concerned that is definitely something you have to acquire a taste for - which is a taste I have never acquired. Laban is not as "sour." It almost has a sweetness to it, but not a sweetness like sugar. Hard to describe.
Here's the thing. I now choose laban over orange juice or sparkling water whenever we fly and it is offered. That taste that had to be acquired? I have acquired! It is much worse than that, though. I am drinking a lot of it lately. Have cravings - actual urges - for the stuff. Likely has to do with not smoking. Dairy products and cigarettes are not a "go together" kind of thing. Wine and cigarettes are a go together, as is coffee, and Diet Coke, or any number of other beverages. Not dairy drinks, though. When was the last time - if you are a smoker - you enjoyed a milk shake with a cigarette? Yeah. Never. On the other hand, if you had virtually anything else to drink - even water! - you can enjoy a cigarette with it. Am I right?
I've been meaning to look up the calorie content of this yummy dairy goodness for a while now. Phew. Only 140 calories per an 8 ounce serving. Three 8 ounce servings a day... 420 calories. Still a lot. I may start diluting it with water and cutting the actual amount I drink in half. Perhaps I'll skip that last glass before bed, too. 420 calories is a lot. However, I really thought it was going to be a whole lot more than that. Plus the fat content??? [And I wonder why I keep gaining weight!]
At this point, if I tried to quit drinking laban I would be fighting a couple withdrawals. The not smoking thing? Went great at first. Then I "slipped." Now, again, not smoking. Just trying to keep busy and NOT think about it and when I do think about it I drink water. Or laban. The roof of my mouth hurts from sucking too many sugarless Wint-O-Green Life Savers. Willing to do whatever it takes though to be totally 100% smoke free. And if drinking laban helps... Hey. I could be drinking something much, much worse.
Does anyone know if they have Activia in the dairy section at grocery stores in the States? Just curious. [If they do - any idea how much it costs? It is ridiculously inexpensive, here. For a little less than a half gallon - 59.17 ounces - or 1750 milliliters - we pay 8 riyals, or $2.14 for just shy of a half gallon for approximately seven servings. Pretty darn cheap, if you ask me. I tell you what. I'd pay twice that much for it, maybe more, if that is what it cost. It is that good!]