One byproduct of all that butterfat is skim milk -- a healthful product many people find undrinkable. Straus does bravely sell organic skim milk (in bottles topped with austere blue foil), but now they're also turning it into nonfat yogurt. Even fat-free yogurt has consistency and sourness, and it seems less different from its fat-laden siblings -- and so less of a distasteful sacrifice -- than does skim milk, the castor oil of modern life.
A few weeks ago, Dish spoke to Michael Straus at the Ferry Plaza farmers market about the meaning of "organic" milk. He explained that the dairy's 250 cows graze on land certified as organic under the state's Organic Foods Act of 1990, and that the animals receive no antibiotics or growth hormones. If they get sick, they get aspirin and homeopathy. Otherwise, they graze on a hilltop with a view of Tomales Bay -- a setting of Zen-like tranquillity in which happy cows stay healthy and produce sweeter milk.
Straus Family Creamery says that its nonfat yogurt "is designed to be a staple in the home." If it's as good as the butter and milk, then it's good stuff, but is it good enough to justify the substantial price premium? (Straus milk costs about 40 percent more than vulgar brands such as Clover Stornetta.) Only you can decide: staple or indulgence?
Earlier this year, Dish reported on Virtual Vineyards, a cyber wine shop with a World Wide Web site. Now the other shoe drops. Not only can you browse for wine on the Internet, you can order it and -- if you're the confident sort -- pay for it, too. Just entrust your credit-card number to the encryption software of CyberCash, an Internet service that helps speed payment to Web retailers.
CyberCash calls its operation the "Secure Internet Payment Service" (as opposed to the insecure one?), on which "consumers can now perform financial transactions on the Internet ... with complete confidence." The service "currently uses encryption technology from the world's leading sources of technology." That's a lot of reassurance for a system that claims (but doesn't guarantee) complete security in a perilous world of viruses, hackers, and credit-card fraud. The Web today is what the oceans were 500 years ago -- vast, unregulated, little understood, a better setting for piracy than security. Doth CyberCash protest too much? Check it out at http://www.cybercash.com.
By Paul Reidinger