Georgia’s Culinary Greatness

Immediately upon landing in Tbilisi airport I was surprised to be given the most unexpectedly encouraging welcome; a bottle of wine. Feeling this was the right start, upon exiting the very compact, ‘largest airport of the country’, I discovered that everybody was habituated to smoking, everywhere. These were early indications to an admirably confident people, charismatic in their steadfast nature and lifestyle. I had explained to our guide, the brilliantly informed Gaioz, that apart from the historically cultural significance of the place, we had made the trip for the, even more, a meritorious reputation of their culture of food and wine. The initial exchanges were enough for me to confirm that the local citizens, at large, are more than eager to talk to you about their imperious culinary history. Understandably, the people are content with their charmingly preserved Old Town, peppered with ornate structures and composed cobblestone streets. Their contentment, I later realized, was justified via their awareness of the cultural process that, has defined their peopling for the society that they have developed into today.  

The present range of Georgian cuisines that have evolved over time, is reflective of their culturally diverse history. Many debate in favor of the fact that Georgian food could really be one of the most underrated present day cuisines. To follow through, a visit to Georgia would certainly provide good evidence to defend that argument, whether you have a preference for vegetarian or non-vegetarian food. What I did learn through my trip to the sovereign state is that, the secret behind the unique nature of Georgia’s culinary history is that, it is a product of a rare blend of several distinct cultures. The impressive multitude of cultures that have influenced today’s Georgian cuisine are inclusive of influence from Greece, Turkey, Persia and the Mediterranean region. Even if you were fussy about food, simply for the wide array of cultural influence it is impossible not to be able to find food to your fancy.

Very suitably Georgian food appears to be expressive of its culture; reflective of its warm hospitable people, long hearty discussions at the dinner table and the occasional brilliant surprise of the supra (the traditional feast offered spontaneously to a visitor if they were lucky enough). There are instances of this experience that will never escape my mind, as you have a very high probability of developing bonds that will fascinate several reasons. Most notably, you will be well educated, in very tasteful fashion, of a culinary art form set apart from the rest. Other than widely being endorsed as one of the most vitamin-rich diets, whether its health or adventure on your mind, superbly Georgia is also recognized as the very significant birthplace of wine.

The manner in which they have, so deftly, found chemistry between Western and Eastern techniques is characteristically impressive of the lands. Platters of soup dumplings, called Khinkali, appear equally attractive to the people in Tbilisi as do they seem desirable to the folks in Shanghai, whereas Georgia’s sumptuous flatbreads parallel India’s best naan, puffed and scorched on the inner walls of traditional clay toné ovens. Precisely chosen, these similar qualities are not coincidental. Lying at the meeting point of ancient East–West trade routes, Georgians fully exploited the advantage of being able to handpick the quintessential traits of what the Greeks, Mongols, Turks, and Arabs were cooking along the Silk Road. That, as you would imagine justifies why this place is an undeniable haven for food valentines.

The coalescence of cultures of various cuisines are spread throughout the region based on the segregation of the area. Every distinct region of the nation prides itself on a unique specialty dish or particular culinary style of  pan-Georgian preparation: you’ll find searing flavors and corn-based dishes in the west, while the eastern Georgian cooking style favors more wheat and milder heat. The hilly regions in the upper east are known for their lamb meat, while Ajara, on the Black Sea Coast, brags a plethora of rich cheddar, margarine, and egg dishes. Irrespective of how specific your preferences are you will discover that Georgia is confidently equipped to impress you.

Having always gotten used to a very meat based regular diet, I was especially sceptical when it came to experimenting with some of the vegetarian preparations. The consequence of the astonishing results easily coerced me into looking forward to my next vegetarian meal, for the next three days to come. And I am certain for my taste buds, at least, were in for the most sumptuous surprise.

Purely vegetarian preparations like the Churchkhela, (walnut dripped repeatedly by concentrated grape juice), Lobio (slow-cooked kidney beans with unprecedented flavor), Tklapi (flat colorful fruit roll ups), Pkhali (vegetable sates, salad of many unpredictable tweaks and inclusions), Lobiani (one bean-filled version of many tremendous types of breads), ajapsandali (it’s unapologetically spicy, with garlicky adjika taking a central role. And unlike its Mediterranean counterparts, in which the vegetables are too often reduced to mush, ajapsandali is an oven-roasted medley of firm eggplant and crisp bell peppers, lightly bound at the last minute with fresh tomato purée and livened up with a flurry of chopped cilantro) etc. The endless list of non-vegetarian delicacies include Khachapuri Adjaruli (bread delightfully filled with sulguni cheese), khinkali (dumplings that disintegrate in your mouth releasing the broth inside of it), Mtsvadi (succulent meat impaled on a stick), and Kharcho (seasoned and seared chicken or beef meat in enriched sauce with walnuts etc.).

These undisputed eats are probably never leaving my mind, or my present cookbook. Despite the external influences throughout its culinary history, Georgian food remains steadfastly true to itself. If you are genuine in your mission of culinary exploration, then i strongly recommend that you do not let this opportunity, to feast your way through the coalescence of cultures on a plate, pass you by.