Today at lunch my family served me 3 day old khachapuri that had been reheated in the oven. Khachapuri, since I am not sure I have mentioned it before, is a traditional Georgian dish. It is bread baked flat with cheese inside. When fresh and hot, it is quite tasty. Like a giant quesadilla, but with a lot more bread around it and a very unusual cheese. The Georgian cheese, of which there seems to be only one variety, two tops, is generally homemade and is salty as heck. I am not a huge fan, but can choke down a little by itself as it is one of the only readily available forms of protein. Baked into bread it is much more edible. Back to today.
This khachapuri had probably been made Monday night. It is Thursday. This means that this is a food item containing a milk-based product that has been sitting in room temperature or higher for almost 3 days. Would you eat a cheese sandwich that had been sitting on the counter for 3 days? If you asked me two months ago, I would have said no. But now . . . I cautiously ate two wedges and decided that was as much risk of dysentery I could handle for the day.
My host family does not have a fridge. And this does not seem to be an unusual situation in Georgia. Food is prepared at least twice a day, for lunch and dinner. At meals we eat our fill and then the remainder of the food goes back into the kitchen where it may or may not even be covered. Some items, like the bread, cheese, and butter go in a little cupboard. But that does not mean that they have not been sitting out in the fly-infested kitchen for hours. Hot dishes will stay in their pots and will reappear at all subsequent meals until someone finally finishes them off. With sick fascination I will sit in the kitchen and watch the flies endlessly explore the chicken/khachapuri/cheese/etc that a family member will eat without hesitation at the next meal.
I generally try to avoid leftovers, especially anything meat or milk based. But that does not mean I am always successful. And my vigilance is waning. Sometimes I go ahead and eat the leftovers, especially if the present dish is something I despise. Like fish. Or meat soup. I have yet to get violently ill from this, but my innards seem not to have yet made peace with the food situation in Georgia. I brought a large supply of Pepto-Bismol and continue to use it on an on-and-off basis. So today, because I was hungry and no other food was served, I ate my 3-day-old khachapuri with less hesitation than I ever could have imagined. But only 2 wedges. Because, as mentioned before, I am really not interested in seeing the inside of a Georgian doctor’s office.