Not A Foodie, I Swear

I’ve been here in Georgia for two months, and one of my constant concerns for much of that time has been finding decent familiar food, and damn the expense.

Okay, I admit that it’s clichéd and xenophobic to come halfway around the world and every couple weeks strike out desperately in search of familiar food.  I admit that.

And what’s more, upon finding a Mexican or Italian restaurant, to think, “No, no, the spices and cheese are all wrong, they don’t make it properly here,” after tasting it.

But really, I have an excuse: Georgians eat the same thing just about every day.  Lunch is tomato & cucumber salad and bread.  Dinner is one of two soups and bread.  A snack is sausages and bread or khachapuri—which is Georgian for “cheese-bread.”  Maybe on a special occasion you might have some khinkali for dinner.  And, because these mountain people have never had anything else, they’re used to having so few choices.

Another effect of this limited cuisine is that every “meal” might more rightly be called a “snack” because it’s just one thing.  A Georgian meal is not rounded: it’s one element plus bread.  No sides, no soup with a sandwich.  One thing.  And sometimes it’s eating something that’s actually a condiment—like jelly or sour cream—straight out of the jar as if it were a food on its own.

And last, this limited exposure means that many of them are terrified of trying anything new themselves.  They think nothing of pushing a plate of undercooked dough and revolting cheese under an American’s nose and then getting insulted when he eyes it warily before trying it, but show the exact same reaction themselves when presented with something equally unfamiliar to them.  A few weeks go I saw one young man’s world implode while watching his face as he considered eating a meal without bread for the first time in his life.  It’s an irritating double standard that reveals the small-mindedness of many of these people.

So pardon my search for pizza.

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