Public Announcement: I am now also blogging over at the Teach and Learn with Georgia blog (I have a little profile and everything, it's super official) so check that out for more stories and tips about living in Georgia!
I'm here to talk about something extremely important: food.
Georgians always, I mean always, ask you two questions:
1. Do you like Georgia?
2. Do you like Georgian food?
Now I find number 1 a little strange....I mean, yes, I do like Georgia. I like every place I've visited here, so I always answer in the affirmative. However, I haven't been to every part of Georgia. If someone came to visit the US and had seen New York City, DC, L.A. for instance, I wouldn't ask "so, do you like the US?" I would ask about those specific cities. It makes more sense for them to ask me now, when I have been in the East and the West and in the major cities, but they would also ask me this when I had been here two weeks and seen all of two places.
Number 2 however, is an easy question - yes, I love Georgian food. I don't always like the amounts given to me, and I don't always like how it effects my ability to fit my pants,
but it's absolutely delicious.
Come with me on the journey of Georgian (or at least, East Georgian) food!
The word I probably hear most in my home is "chame" (pronounced ChAH-may) which means "eat" in command form. I hear this before a meal, during the meal, and at the end of the meal
(my end, they want to keep eating...)
"Meri Elen! Chame!"
"Chame, gogo!" (Eat, girl!)
This is a supra, which I have mentioned before. Inhuman amounts of food and alcohol. Delicious, but also comes with stomach cramps from the amount you are continuously, graciously, given to eat.
Notice the tomatoes - I never liked them until I came here. Now I eat at least two a day. When they go out of season, there goes half my diet.
One of the great things about Georgian food at home is so much of it is home grown...I ate a chicken today that was hanging out in our backyard just yesterday (and if you are one of those fools that cringe at that but aren't a vegetarian, then you are silly. Would you rather it have lived in a factory?). We eat fruit and veggies from my host Grandpa's farm or bought at market from farmers that come to town. Our bread is made in a bakery just down the street!
Khachapuri was the first Georgian food I ever heard of, when I googled this tiny little known country of Georgia. It is bread and cheese, and sometimes egg, and is made differently all over Georgia. It's often sold for very cheap on the street, and I have eaten it multiple times for meals while traveling. But the very best khachapuri is what my host mom makes....it comes out flaky and delicious with salty, fresh cheese.
And yes, its half the reason for my weight gain.
My host mom making khachapuri.
Churchella (Georgian snickers they often call it) is a big deal here in the wine/grape region of Kakheti. Made from nuts (hazelnut or walnut usually) put on a string and dipped into 'tatara' a paste from grapes and flour, you will find churchella sold everywhere you go and also made at home!
Churchella hanging on my porch!
And about the wine....
Everyone makes their own (that is my host grandpa grinding the grapes!
and then stores it in used beer/soda/water bottles (as in, the big ones).
When I asked my host mom where I could buy some Kakheti wine to bring a friend,
she just gave me this full of their own wine.
Of course you CAN buy fancy- pantsy wine like this (which is indeed delicious) but it's just not as fun as getting in an argument with a shirtless Russian man about whether or not you were traveling with true Kakheti wine or just cheap beer and since you are a stupid American girl you don't know the difference....(yes, this happened).
The fresh bread (as seen here) is present at every meal and is incredibly delicious and very useful in being used as an eating utensil. Mop up you sauces and juices, make an impromptu sandwich, soak up all that alcohol...possibilities are endless. So is the weight gain.
This is khinkali, dumplings usually stuffed with meat, but also can be full of cheese, mushrooms or potato. You have to eat them with your hands and suck out the juice (hard work when it is 1,000 degrees) and you leave the little tops so you can brag about how much you ate.
Often the leftovers are fried and served for breakfast.
Fresh cheese, potatoes, veggies, fish (?) and jonjouly there on the left (no idea how to spell that or what it is...some sort of green, but I love it). These were the first few plates brought out for a harvest supra.
And let's not forget our animal friends...
Pigs in our backyard.
One of the few things I absolutely could not eat was a boiled pig's nose.
I took a bite, I really did...couldn't do it.
A few of the many (some rather evil - especially the rooster that wakes me up) chickens that live in my yard. My host mom is a master at killing, cleaning and fixing these...I watched her clean five dead chickens in record time.
We don't have a cow, which at first I was sad about, but when I heard the stories of fellow volunteers being asked to help kill a cow, well....not so sad anymore.
So that's food in Georgia! Fresh, organic, delicious, sometimes loud and fattening!
Chame, gogo, chame!
PS. for the record, I love the frequent use of gogo and beetcho (boy)
and will be bringing it back to the States.