So since coming to Georgia I’ve become really conscious about food. I’ve always loved food and it’s an important part of my life (if you met my dad you’d understand why) so it’s interesting for me to observe these new thoughts as I go.
I’ve never been one for meat, never liked it and have always been way too attached to any fluffy animals to be happy eating them. That being said, I come from a meat and two veg family and was never allowed to be Vegetarian when growing up, since my parents were worried I’d become malnourished (baked beans weren’t persuasive enough unfortunately).
I’m forever worrying about making sure I and the people around me are eating properly. Moving to London in 2013 was my first experience of living alone and therefore cooking for myself, which I enjoyed although London restaurants were always more tempting.
So in Georgia, where restaurants are in abundance but mainly consist of meat, meat dumplings, barbecued meat and really mayonaise-y salads, I can’t say I’m so tempted. I love cooking, even more so when I cooked for a loved one. I’ve got a good opportunity here to experiment with new dishes and to get creative since some ingredients are very hard to find here compared to in the UK, but are generally natural and seasonal.
One little thing before I continue, despite the rich land and multi-cultural life of Georgia, since it’s situated between Europe, the Middle East and Asia and therefore has an over-spill of all of them, people can be painfully narrow-minded when it comes to food. No matter how much I love a dish, I can’t just eat it every day. Here, people tend to cook up batches of various dishes to be eaten cold throughout the week which drives me crazy.
I’m so thankful that I’m in a relationship with an open-minded guy. Last night his friends dropped by spontaneously when I’d just finished preparing dinner and they hated everything. Black bread instead of shotis puri, pasta with a homemade sauce, baked potato wedges, fresh salad, and fried fish for Shota. Simple stuff but they complained throughout and at one point even laughed at the fact there was only fish at the table. Now Shota has said to me that he’s starting to dislike meat too, so he’s happy with what I cook, but I was surprised – how rude!
Anyway, before I start ranting, the main thing I wanted to talk about is meat production here. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but this video which a friend of mine posted on Facebook last week spurred me on (be warned, it’s not pretty but there’s no images of carcasses or anything like that. It is sad though).
The photo above is of my neighbours’ pigs, just opposite our living room window and next to our garden. When I first arrived here I grew quite attached to the one I always saw hopping merrily around a plum tree, only to wake up one morning to the blood-curdling squeals as they slaughtered him for mtsvadi. I ran to the kitchen and blocked my ears, shedding a tear for my little friend.
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard a pig get slaughtered, and I doubt it will be the last. My first ever trip to Georgia in December 2014 included visiting a village in Kakheti where we stayed with Shota’s sister’s family and enjoyed her beautiful house and garden, full of homegrown veg and fruits. I woke up to a beautiful sunny but crisp winter’s day and joined Shota and his nephews kicking a ball around in the garden before breakfast. This charming scene was interrupted by a loud, pained squeal which I initially thought was a child until I caught on, and Shota gave me a cautious look as I realised. It was a harsh wake-up to reality in a Georgian village (and Georgia in general) but I wouldn’t say it prepared me enough for the pig’s head I accidentally kicked in the butchers the next day!
While this devastates me, I’m conflicted. Of course I would love if we all became Vegan and saved the planet etc etc but realistically, that’s not gonna happen on a large scale any time soon. Even more so in non-Western cultures where meat is the staple of any dish and they’ll happily eat if for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
So, atleast I would want the animals to be treated well, which is what I’m seeing here in Georgia. That’s not to say there won’t be huge depressing factories like in that video, but generally everyone has their own livestock or atleast meat from the bazaar which has been brought in to Tbilisi fresh that morning.
The road into Tbilisi from the villages is usually lined with cars selling various chunks of meat from their boots. I don’t have a photo to show you, and generally don’t have photos of meat here because it makes me queasy.
The supermarkets are much more reliant on factories but the average Georgian won’t buy meat and dairy from them. They know the difference in quality and would rather slaughter the animal themselves than buy a chemical-pumped carcass from Fresco.
The animals are happy though, they have space, good food, fresh air, their own garden to play in… It’s all perfect except the killing part. If we’re talking about pigs, they usually cut their throats, halal-style (even though they’re not halal/kosher, but I think the impact of Muslims and Jews here over time has influenced this) which takes time and leads to a slow and painful death for the pig, usually held down by several men. They’re strong and intelligent animals – it shouldn’t be that way!
I don’t know the details of this kind of thing but surely a stun-gun would be better for everyone? But they have their traditions I suppose, and they’re never very keen to hear about people opposing them or trying to advise them.
This hasn’t been a coherent post and, just to summarise, I appreciate the quality of life animals generally have here since it’s much more healthy and natural, but if only they could have a little more empathy and hygiene…
What are your thoughts on this subject? Am I being too precious?