The fact that Georgians do not weigh about 500 pounds each is a fact not lost on me or the other Americans here. The "diet" is something else. It is definitely not based on the USDA Food Pyramid in the least. The other day my Minnesota friend here, Jeff, commented if anything about nutrition is known here. I should ask my host mom. She is a doctor. Basically the Georgian diet is comprised of:
- Carbs, at least 4 different types per meal
- Cheese, at least 2 types per meal
- Oils and butter
- More carbs
- Still more carbs
- And for good measure tomatoes, cucumber, and melon
The mainstay of the Georgian diet, khachapuri, is bread and cheese. It has been a few days since my host family has made it, which is mildly shocking. The baking contraption that resulted in the Georgian Brownie Baking Fiasco of 2010 (see the previous post) is designed solely to bake this bread in. Khachapuri is to Georgia as falafel is to Israel.
Consequently, I think my cholesteral level has increased in just 5 weeks. Food is central to life here in a big, big way. One of my friends, Chanchal, hates to sit still in one place longer than a few minutes at her host family's house because food will magically appear even if she ate just a few minutes prior. I hear "Tchame Charlotta! Tchame!" (Eat Charlotte! Eat!) daily from my host mother. One day at my house we had no less than 5 full meals because visitors just kept coming. To combat the weight gain inevitable with a diet so high in fats and carbs I've become an expert at eating just the melon and few fresh veggies available. However, after I leave Georgia I do not think I will ever be able to eat watermelon again.
When I first arrived my host family was worried because I never seemed to eat anything as I am a vegetarian. I wanted to say, "The scale indicates otherwise." We have worked out finally that I will eat what I can or I will make something special for myself. Cooking for myself seems unlikely, however. My host mother likes cooking too much to let me be in on it. However, I can help with some aspects of food preparation, an area few of my friends have been allowed to enter in their host homes. Many of my friends cannot even do their own laundry! When I first asked about the washing machine the immediate response from my host sister was, "I can do that for you." No Jilda, I can handle it.
As Georgia is the supposed birthplace of wine that plays an important part in life here as well. Not so much in my family as they are Muslims, however. While at Chanchal's house for dinner one evening, 2 glasses of wine magically appeared. When they found out that I didn't drink, an uncomfortable silence filled the room as if that was the most perplexing thing they have ever heard. They demanded to know why not. I've become an expert at saying, "Me ar vsvam qkhava, chai, da alkohols." (I don't drink coffee, tea or alcohol). I need to use that more than one would expect. Chanchal and I speculated that they likely had a conversation amongst themselves about the "crazy" eating habits of Americans. First, vegetarianism and now this!
Oddly Georgia is lacking in the dessert department. Chanchal and I decided that while Georgian desserts look really good they just end up being a major disappointment. I've been pleasantly surprised a couple of times, but mainly I get let down. My host mom made an awesome cake last week, a Russian recipe. Unfortunately, it contained the most awful of foods next to coconut, raisins.