While trying to read, I can hear the others laughing and chatting in the dining room. Oh well, at least I have a good bed to finally rest on and the book’s not too bad, either… Then there’s a knock at the door and mother of our Georgian host family enters, smiling: “Chai?” she asks, sending me back a few decades instantly by reminding me of a time when drinking “Gruzijski chai” was quite an event, back in my Yugoslavia period. 🙂
“Yes, please!” My smile could not be happier or wider and an hour later I am cured of all my stomach problems, churnings and intestinals storms that had me decline food on the very first evening of our stay in Batumi. It soon turns out I might have missed the best food in the world if not for that tea.
Now, neither foreign visitors to the country nor Georgians themselves will speak about the Georgian food in anything else than superlatives; but then, I am always a sceptic as far as national cuisines and their reputations are concerned, so I didn’t believe any of it just like that. (Everyone’s repeating ad nauseam how delicious French food is and I have yet to like any of it (I can stomach only so much baguette and puff pastry and the French don’t seem to know what to do with vegetables), while the much sneered at English had me love their food during one short stay in London that was mostly spent in museums (ahhhh, organic root veggies ….). I do appreciate what Italians have introduced into our world and try to recreate it at home, sans garlic, the same goes for Indian food, but Georgian food is still in another liga entirely of its own. Like: I’d move to Georgia right now just to eat local food every day and the only reason I have not yet is that I’d become very, very fat very, very soon, even though I’d stick to vegetables and khachapuri.
Or to give you another story: I do not eat walnuts. Ever. My husband does not eat aubergines. Ever. During an outing with a group of birdwatchers we both tried aubergines with walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds and agreed instantly we loved the dish and would be making it at home as soon as possible.
The secret of all this Caucasian deliciousness is quite simple: it’s the Nature Herself. Thus fruit and vegetables have so much taste of their own, Georgia having huge subtropical zones, that not much food engineering is necessary to prepare absolutely tasty dishes every vegetarian dreams about. They may use herbs I have never seen before, but even when not, it is all so damn tasty. *sigh*
There’s a story I read somewhere about a visitor to a mountain region in Georgia, who was asked whether he could name any of the herbs used for the preparation of his meal, which consisted of meat. He could name some and his hosts confirmed those herbs did grow there, only: It was the sheep that ate them, the guest got only meat with some salt and pepper, nothing else.
Now, I didn’t take any photos while staying with our host family in Batumi, but let me show you below some other delicious things we had eaten before arriving there.
Oh, and lest I forget: eating in Georgia entails HUGE portions. Really big. In restaurants, they won’t bring you the next portion of the same dish, should you manage to eat up, but at private occasions, they will. A Georgian meal is perfect only if there’s so much food on the table at the end of it as it was in the beginning. While Georgians can be comparatively to very poor (in 2006, 34% of them lived below the national poverty line), they will make sure that you eat too much if you let them. So remember: don’t eat up when you’re full!
OK, let’s go: The superb grilled vegetables and cheese-filled mushrooms on a terribly rainy, subtropical afternoon in a restaurant with bookshelves made me very happy indeed:
And of course we ate the local dish number one: khachapuri, which is a traditional Georgian cheese-filled and/or cheese-topped bread of different varieties that can be bought almost everywhere: It is not expensive, but very filling and tasty. Well, maybe not the Adjarian one, since it contains a raw egg and much butter on top (our hiking guide kindly allowed me to take a photo of his dinner):
But all the others are well worth trying, especially those containing sulguni, the most important Georgian cheese, also seen here:
Now, the word khachapuri consists of the Georgian word for cheese, which would be “khacha”, and “puri“, which is simply bread, like here:
Another famous Georgian dish is called khinkali – it is a dumpling, filled with different things. Ours was with mushrooms:
We also tried some sweets, with variuos results 🙂 My husband, for example, likes churchkhela, a sausage-shaped, phallic candy containing grape juice, walnuts and flour – not my type at all:
Churchkhela is generally sold on the streets and from small stalls along smelly roads and I can’t imagine it does not get polluted, but my husband got his fix at the airport and it was well-protected from dust and things. We sometimes order some in a Georgian online shop in Germany but I haven’t eaten any since having tried it 🙂
The next dessert is a clear proof of Turkish influences in Georgia, again, it was my husband who ate it, while our car was being repaired:
Once I bought some sweets to try, but I didn’t like them either:
And maybe you remember that Oreo box from a picture above – I bought it in a duty free in Germany before flying to Georgia and we still have some at home now – oh well … At least I enjoyed some lovely local fruits, like plums, peaches and watermelons – yummy!
As you can see, the photos of food I made are not really of highest quality. I did ask anytime other people were involved whether it was OK to take photos, but I didn’t want to linger too long and clicked away rather fast, which is why they are all so … realistic.
The food, I assure you once more, is heavenly.