One year ago, if you were looking for a decent breakfast in Georgia, you'd be hard pressed. In the small villages that dot the pristine Iverian countryside, activity doesn't begin until 10 or 11, and by then the few cafes that might exist are already preparing cheese-breads for lunch. The only thing that lingers on the roads that early, other than students walking to school, is the occasional slumbering street dog or the couple of cows headed down the road to the pasture. In the capital city of Tbilisi, the situation isn't much different. A walk around at nine o'clock is akin to walking around New York at 5, though there's more wildlife in the form of lurking dogs and the cats that live in dumpsters, scattering at any sign of nearby movement (and much less sleeping vagrants gathered around steam vents). At homes, when breakfast is served, it seems that the "traditional Georgian" breakfast is simply the leftover food from the night before, left out in a pot sitting on and idle stove top.
The timing is, of course, one thing I love about living in Georgia. I never have to worry about getting a job that expects me in the office much before 10, which is ideal for a night owl like me. But on the other hand, getting a breakfast, even after 10, has been downright near impossible. Not even McDonald's serves breakfast, which I think is a simple sacrilege in the name of Ronald McDonald himself. Cheeseburgers for breakfast? Really, guys?! And you call yourself Europeans! I think though, with the influx of tourists and expats over the past few years, that this trend has finally begun to change, though there's still no hope in sight for the honored American institution that takes the premiere places across Tbilisi.
I woke up one morning and stumbled to Meidani Square, the main square of the Old Town, surrounded by refurbished, centuries old buildings - and new buildings that at least are made in a similar style - ringed with colorful balconies and hanging green plants. All the greenery nearly reminds me of Louisiana, a place in the States also known for its balconies, shades of green and lazy, sunny afternoons. A few of my friends were gathered on the porch of Tartine, a French restaurant that has long been an establishment on the plaza. It's a restaurant I rarely visit, since there's no dish under 15 lari, so it's out of the range of my own proletarian refinement, but as I watched dish after dish being served to my friends, I had to second guess my sensibilities. There was a soup, a salad, some eggs benedict, coffee, mimosas, and so on and so forth. Like a babushka yelling at her drunk grandson, the tirade of food never ended. "What is this?"
"This is the Sunday brunch," they informed me. "It's 32 lari." I guffawed, but was quickly in control of myself after doing a quick calculation of all of the cuisine that had passed before my eyes and into their stomachs. Was this the beginning of a new stage of European development that Georgia was beginning to see? Breakfast?
Next I witnessed a local grocery store, Smart on Rustaveli, serving all sorts of danishes and croussants, all of which are delicious. Something was happening. But with the current rise of anti-Western attitude, I can only imagine that there might be a frothing mob of priests and birjaviki united again, outside the supermarket, chanting such anti-Western slogans like, "You can take your breakfasts back and eat it, America and Netherlands!" or "Breakfasts are destroying the fabric of Georgian culture!" or "We are not a breakfast country!" or lastly, "Geobreakfastgia ara!"
Good things come in cycles here, so maybe after the initial, anti-breakfast reaction, we will see pro-breakfast riots and then some sensible dialogue in the form of internet memes. Then I can finally see and taste again what all of us expats have long been anticipating, an Egg McMuffin.