I finally made it to Tbilisi, the capital, last weekend. Since I hardly feel that my initial arrival counts, it was truly my first time in the city. I think it is a shame that it was my first time. I am not really sure why I had not gone earlier. Mostly I blame my teaching schedule which goes all the way to 4 PM on Friday afternoons. Makes it hard to take trips to anywhere of any distance.
Cruising into Tbilisi on our miraculously uncrowded martshutka, food became a topic of conversation. Stories of the wonderous food to be found in Tbilisi have reached even the far corner of Georgia that I reside in. Chinese food. Pizza. Mexican food. McDonalds. Visions, not of sugar plums, but of Western food, were dancing in our heads. Not really sure who initiated it, but someone, maybe even me, said we should eat no Georgian food unless absolutely necessary. A pact! We agreed. I was surprised at the enthusiasm this created even though I felt it myself. We piled our hands in the middle to signal our solemn oath.
My last post got me some comments on how I was obviously over any initial attraction to Georgian food. That is true in part. Some meals here are endured, not enjoyed. However I think it is healthy. It keeps food in perspective and it forcibly reminds me of Kathleen Norris’ discussions on monasteries and aestheticism in The Cloister Walk. While any given meal might be something I despise, it helps me to realize that it is just as likely to be a favorite meal of someone else in the family. It’s the militant hospitality that gets to me more than the actual food itself. But I digress.
Here’s the summary of how our pact played out:
Thursday night (Thanksgiving dinner): Irish pub
We consumed slabs of pure meat, unimpaired by bones, gristle, fat, or skin, and drank excellent wine and/or beer. It was glorious. I would’ve sung a love song to my steak if I’d been asked to.
Friday morning: Swiss Bakery
Ham and cheese croissant and mini-chocolate croissant. We would’ve had coffee (Susy and I) but for some reason it was not available. Even though there was a shining espresso machine behind the counter. How very Georgian.
Friday afternoon: monastery in the middle of nowhere
After an entirely unanticipated hike that only my innate pride and stubbornness got me through, I chugged a Nalgene of water, ate a mandarin orange that our driver gave me (out of pity most likely) and a pastry that Susy had had the foresight to purchase before we left town.
Friday evening: Georgian Restaurant
I felt that this dinner slightly dishonored our pact but we really had no other options. We were all starving. We had barbecued pork, spinach, French fries, mushrooms, and a lot of wine. Susy’s argument was that none of this was something we had on a regular basis in the villages. I guess that was true.
Friday night: porch of our hostel
More beverages, Swiss cheese, and Sour Cream and Onion Pringles. How American is that?
Saturday morning: Muesli, bananas, milk, coffee with . . . creamer! I think I would’ve come to Tbilisi just to buy this. But the muesli was amazing. And so was the milk.
Saturday afternoon: Cheese, salami, bread, salad, and Lay’s Potato Chips purchased at the grocery store
Saturday evening: The worst Mexican food ever. It wasn’t Georgian, but it sure wasn’t Mexican either!
Sunday morning: More muesli, bananas, milk, and lots of coffee with creamer. Heaven.
Sunday afternoon: Leftover cheese and salami for me. Jason chugged the yogurt. We hit a cake shop on the way to the Metro.
The change in food was just that: a change. And we all know the saying that change is good. Change was very good that weekend. And when I got back Sunday night, opened the door and saw my family eating little grilled fish with leftover lobio, I sat down with relatively good cheer and had myself some lobio. Which is proof that all Georgian food is not bad.