I thought maybe I’d missed it today—the Second Coming. Returning home from school around 3:30, the house was empty. This in itself was not particularly surprising, but by 4:30 I was wandering around downstairs wondering where everyone was. The girls should have been home from school by then and it was very rare for Nestani to stay at school that long. Grandpa Vakho could usually be spotted somewhere around the house and Boy Giorgi I should normally be able to just hear. Neli was in Tbilisi and I thought Beso must also be there doing a job. It was just really strange to home alone considering that with me the household now numbers 8 people. How likely was it for 7 to be gone all at once?
The second problem was I was ravenous. Breakfast was at 9:30 and it was the usual serving of simple carbohydrates. This was supplemented by a cookie and coffee at school. Seven hours later I was hungry, hungry, hungry. An understandable reaction I think. And there was nothing to be had in the kitchen except bread. Whenever Grandma Neli leaves us for any amount of time we definitely suffer on the food side of things. No hot lunch waiting when we all get home from school. Instead poor Nestani walks in the door and has to immediately start cooking. This was the third day since Neli had left and we had used up the usual stockpile of leftovers. Just empty pots remaining.
The situation seemed ridiculous to me. Perfectly competent cook starving in a house with food stores that simply need preparation. So I decided to cook my own lunch. And since I didn’t want to use up any special supplies, I decided to go with the all-time Georgian favorite: fried potatoes. Fool proof recipe and plenty of potatoes in the pantry.
Although I attempt to assist with food preparation on occasion and have prepared a few dishes/desserts for my host family, I believe they still labor under the impression that I don’t know how to boil water. I knew that them coming home (assuming the Rapture hadn’t truly occurred) and finding me cooking would be gossip for our neighbors and all the teachers for a week. And there would be all those ridiculous surprised expressions and congratulatory exclamations like Maladetz and Ho-cha, as if this was a remarkable event. So the goal was to work quickly. If I could be nonchalantly eating my potatoes when they walked in the door, there was much less for them to talk about. The deed would be done. Caught in the act would mean they would check everything I did and most likely enact a coup on the acting chef—me.
Peeling potatoes with a knife if much harder than it appears. This I have learned in Georgia. The peeler is a marvelous invention. I almost brought one back with me to Georgia so I could help with all the peeling that goes on. But it seemed so sissy that I decided not to. So I struggled through my potatoes, nervously checking out the window for approaching family members the whole time.
Grandpa Vakho was the first to spot me. His comment was that Tamta would be home soon. Yeah, make the 17 year-old cook for the 26 year-old. Love that. I shrugged my shoulders and said I was hungry.
By the time Tamta showed up and I got all the expected exclamations and furtive looks at my progress, all the potatoes were peeled and were being cut into the pan. Yes, I can peel potatoes and cut them. I didn’t feel there were enough potatoes to satisfactorily feed 7 people so I was cutting a few more. Everyone minus Neli would be showing up sooner or later and there was nothing else to eat. Tamta didn’t feel this was necessary and gave me this strange look that made me feel like was 6. I found this rather irritating and, slightly sharply, told her to talk in English. This was unnecessary retaliation. In my defense, it’s hard being treated like a child by someone 10 years younger. And would it really kill us to have some leftovers sitting around? Plus I was planning on eating a significant amount of potatoes. Starving, remember?
By 5-ish or so we were finally sitting down to potatoes. It was only Tamta, Vakho and I. The fewer witnesses the better. The potatoes tasted like . . . potatoes. The only thing I noticed was my peeling job hadn’t meet with Georgian standards. Some bits of peel and potato eyes were being left on the edges of plates. My mother would say that’s where all the vitamins are.
An interesting day altogether. Glad I got a chance to work on my potato peeling skills. Obviously need more practice as my fingers and wrist were aching when I finished. Forget using a keyboard. Potato peeling is carpal tunnel waiting to happen.