While trying write a post about our time in Georgia, I quickly realized that I was spending a significant amount time on food, and it wasn’t because I was hungry. One the highlights in Georgia has to be the food. So, I figured that I should really write a separate post about it.
To my pleasant surprise, Georgia became one of our favourite countries for bread. I hadn’t given any thought about what the bread would be like in Georgia, but it turned out to be wonderful. Georgians eat a lot of bread, and most of the time it is cooked fresh and local. Almost anywhere you go, there is someone baking bread in a traditional brick oven called a tone (ton-ay). The dough is slapped onto the inside wall of the oven, and it is taken off with a long metal rod. It is typically shaped into long loaves called shoti. The bread is simply fantastic……..crunchy on the outside and deliciously chewy inside. It was so wonderful to have such amazing bread so readily available. We learned that we usually had to buy two loaves at a time, because one would magically disappear on the walk home.
Other great Georgian dishes include kharcho, khachapuri, and khinkali. Kharcho is a soup made with beef, rice, cherry plums, and walnuts. Such a great soup to warm up with on a cold day. Khachapuri is bread baked with cheese in some form. Some have the cheese baked inside, and some on top. The most interesting one was the adjaruli khachapuri that has cheese baked inside and is served with an egg and some butter on top. The heat of the khachapuri melts the butter and cooks the egg. Khinkali are dumplings made the Georgian way. Typically meat is wrapped inside, and they have a small amount of soup broth inside when cooked. These were definitely a hit with kids who are missing their grandma’s dumplings from home.
I know that we already posted about churchkhelas on Instagram, but it is worth mentioning them again. We ate soooooooo many of these snacks in Georgia, that Mary even considered carrying a stockpile of them to Nepal for our trekking. Churchkhelas are made by stringing nuts, usually walnuts or hazelnuts, together on a string. Then dipping the nuts into a thick mixture made up of fruit juice and flour. Once dry, not only are they a great snack but they keep for a long time. You can find them in all sorts of flavours all over Georgia.
It would be a serious oversight if I didn’t mention Georgian wine. There is debate about who started making wine first, Armenia or Georgia. However, there is no doubt that it has been going on for a very long time in Georgia…..almost 8000 years. There are literally hundreds of grape varieties that are indigenous to Georgia. Georgia also developed their own way of making wine using large clay vessels called qvevri that are buried in the ground. Crushed grapes, including the skins and seeds, are placed in these vessels and allowed to ferment naturally. This process has been used for many years in Georgia, and it is seeing a resurgence in the commercial wine industry as well, with many wineries offering Qvevri wine. After the wine has been made, the left over pomace is distilled to produce Chacha. This potent brandy is also called grape vodka, and it is very popular amongst Georgians.
It is also very common for people to grow their own grapes and make their own wine. You can see grapes growing everywhere in peoples’ yards and even outside of apartment buildings. When we were staying in the Kakheti region, which is the main wine producing area, we were fortunate to have a wonderful experience. The host of our guest house actually took us out to his vineyard to help harvest his grapes. The kids had a great time learning how to pick the grapes, and they were great helpers. They harvested the grapes off an entire row. Then we enjoyed an impromptu picnic and barbecue with his friends, compete with home made wine of course!