How Georgia made me Vegan

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Last September in Chorvela, Imereti. Yes I was awake at 6am to milk a cow… Not long after the same cow nearly broke my foot!

I mentioned recently that I’ve decided to go Vegan. It hasn’t been very successful so far and Easter is coming soon so it seems like it will be impossible to start until it’s all over unless I want to waste away in the mean time.

I hear you asking “Why not just start anyway and ignore Easter food?”. I would… But Georgians are big on their meat and barely care to understand the concept of ‘vegetarian’, let alone ‘vegan’. Since it’s a holiday where lots of people come together and share food and drink, I don’t want to come across like the spoilt English girl who doesn’t eat any of their national food on the biggest celebration of the year.

You know that bit in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where he says that he’s vegetarian? Yeah, last time Shota explained to a friend of ours that I don’t eat meat, they smiled and put several pieces on my plate and, what would apparently win me over, the barbecued innards too.

Anyway back to the point. I came to Georgia to live officially by October last year, but was here from July to late September anyway for other reasons. We visited Shota’s gran in Imereti for a few days which should’ve been a nice trip to the villages around and some new places I hadn’t seen before. Instead I managed to get severe food poisoning on the first night and, without going into details, spent the next few days slipping in and out of consciousness and retching at the vinegar- soaked socks I was made to wear.

I’d never been so ill in my entire life, I lost about a stone and a half in weight and went atleast 3 days without food, then could only manage plain buckwheat and some apples when I came around. You know, Shota’s gran saved me. She’s a little Russian lady but the embodiment of the Soviet Union when you see her strength and Lenin medals for hard work in the local factory. She came in hauling a massive oak branch behind her, stripped the bark, washed it all and boiled it to create ‘moukha‘ which I was made to drink slowly over the course of the day. I was pretty much completely better within a few hours, incredible!

Since then my stomach has been very sensitive to certain foods, and I managed to get anemia from it too which I’ve only recently recovered from thanks to this and this. I was impressed by the impact the oak bark made on me and have been interested in herbal treatments since. Of course, with this, is the impact of diet and products we wear so I’ve been slowly but surely heading Vegan since around January this year.

Also, the amount of articles I’ve read about people self-healing various diseases and even cancer tumours is a bit of a wake-up call. It makes sense to me since the effects of eating green are visible after even a few days, let alone a lifetime.

My mum died of cancer very young, in her mid thirties, so it’s very likely that it’s genetic. I’m in the process of trying to organise BRCA gene testing which is difficult because I’m still young, so in the meantime I’d like to do what I can to be as healthy as possible in that respect.

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One of my absolute favourite things about Georgia is the nature and agriculture. As you can see in the photo above, Grapes are easy to grow here, along with all sorts of fruits and veg since there is a subtropical climate in some regions.

In fact – side note – Shota and I are looking in to buying some land and starting our own organic fruit, veg and nut production, fingers crossed!

In the UK it’s expensive to eat fresh and organic food. The markets are beautiful but you have to have a pretty good income to shop there, even more so for veg that doesn’t last so long and gets eaten quickly like herbs, tomatoes and peppers. In Georgia this veg is everywhere. People come from the villages to sell their produce and it’s all fresh and ready to go. Of course some people use pesticides but it’s pretty obvious when the apples look like plastic. We just avoid these and go for the natural stuff, which doesn’t keep long (of course) and tastes amazing.

The fact that seasonal fruit and veg is so readily available here and so cheap when you buy from the bazaars, it would be a shame if I didn’t embrace that and make the most of a healthy lifestyle too. I’ve always eaten plenty of fruit and veg and I’ve never really liked meat and dairy, but chocolate and biscuits are my weakness. Fortunately for me the biscuits are mostly big Russian malt biscuits which I find too dry anyway, and the chocolate is full of additives and sugar which give me palpitations. So I’m much less tempted than I would be in the UK, surrounded my Milky Way Crispy Rolls and Chocolate Digestives.

That being said, I’d like to get into enough of a healthy eating habit now before going back to the UK because I need to gain some serious willpower if I should resist Cadbury’s again!

As much as all of these fruits, nuts and veg are readily available and so cheap, I do need some sweetness in my life. Honey is a favourite for me and I know it’s not as good for you as Maple Syrup but as if I can find that here… These Vegan alternative ingredients like coconut oil, superfoods, tofu and avocados are impossible to find here or else they’re ridiculously expensive. When you can buy 5kg of potatoes for 3GEL but one avocado costs 15GEL then there’s a problem. I’ve managed to find dates too but they’re not as juicy as I’d like and are also pricey… But Shota and I are addicted to them so we splash out.

In the UK I could find these ingredients easily, especially in London. Of course they’re expensive still but compared to Lari, Pound will manage well enough. Also, I’d really like to switch to Vegan makeup products which is going to be impossible here too, so in the meantime I’ll just wear as minimal makeup as possible.

I don’t want to seem to precious about things while I’m here, and I’m really working on a budget and with limited ingredients and storage space for pantry staples. So, once I’ve finished this bloody essay, I’ll definitely make a general meal plan that I find satisfying but easy-to-follow on a budget anywhere rather than just in expensive western cities. Can you sense the emotions I have for Wholefoods?

I have plenty of motivation to start, but I know eggs will be my weakness along with icecream and yogurt now that summers slowly poking its head round. Just don’t talk to me about tofu, I can’t find it here anyway and it’s the devil’s food so I’m yet to find a way to make vegan omelettes without obscure ingredients!

Wish me luck! If you have any tips I’d love to hear, in the meantime I’ll be pining over the dairy and gluten free dark chocolate bar I found in Smart the other day…

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17 thoughts on “How Georgia made me Vegan

  1. eminthecaucasus says:

    My vegan friend living in the village just said she was (strong) fasting, but all the time. Led to some odd suppositions about her religion, but easily communicated her dietary needs. She ate a lot of lobio…

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      Haha! It’s easy to be seduced by it all at the beginning but, in all honesty, I find that kind of feast and those dishes really heavy and quite repetative. I like to mix up my dinners so I get a little bored at supras where the dishes are predictable now that I’m used to them all! I hope that doesn’t make me sound ungrateful – I’m in awe of how much work they put into it all!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. windtsoi says:

    Clapping my hands to your way being a vegan, I know it’s not easy as it sounds! I am doing a gluten-free diet now as I can see the side effect of eating wheat like acne breakout!! I LOVE all bakeries and they are my barriers I need to overcome everyday…. Anyway, your decision is going to make you a better life, good luck!

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      Thank you so much for your supportive words! Even cutting down on it all has made a noticeable difference so I can’t wait to see the results of cutting it out all together. That and I find I crave sweet stuff/dairy/etc less and less when I don’t eat it for a while… It’s just willpower! Good luck avoiding those bakeries!

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      What is Easter like in Bulgaria? I imagine quite similar? I loved Bulgaria when I visited a few years ago, such an interesting place but unfortunately I only experienced it as a tourist since I didn’t know any locals then. Thank you for your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

      • student nurse adventures says:

        Easter is all about roasted lamb, painting eggs, and gathering with family and relatives to have an Easter feast. Everyone eats a lot of food. 😀 yumm
        Bulgaria is a lovely place if you have free time and money to spend. 😛 I hope you visit again and enjoy our cuisine.

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  3. awtytravels says:

    The thing is, Georgia hasn’t buckled yet under the weight of processed, industrialized food. It always comes as a shock to me to see that British supermarkets devolve to snacks and sweets as much space as similar establishments in France or Italy (or even Germany!) give to vegetables.
    I wish you good luck with your agricultural endeavour (I have some friends doing the same in the Alps!) However… I also have to say that it’s thanks to pesticides and industrial fertilizers that we’re able to feed seven billion people and counting…

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      Yeah I’m so glad about that but I’m noticing more and more this kind of stuff appearing in the supermarkets. Also loads of tinned stuff too which is awful… I’m not so worried about that but rather the likes of Dunkin Donuts and KFC coming here, people going crazy over them, then noticing everyone getting wider and wider where they’re not so educated about the effects and care more about the image of being at these kind of places /:
      Thank you for your well wishes! I can understand that but I’m sure most of these people could grow their own but choose not to because of lifestyle. I dunno, it’s something I want to read more about (:

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