So, during my two-week blogging hiatus, I had an experience that I will hereafter refer to as “The night the lights went out in Georgia.” Don’t worry, no innocents were hung in the making of this post.
It all started with my desire to experience Georgian culture to its fullest effect. I have been slightly bummed about not having a host family because I haven’t been having many supras. (A supra is a big Georgian feast with lots of eating and lots of drinking.) Basically, I’ve never sat in a Georgian home with a large number of guests at a giant table eating home-cooked Georgian food and toasting Georgia, guests, women, the wind, and anything else the tamada could think of with Georgian wine.
In addition, I like a Georgian dish called “kababi” because it is composed almost entirely of meat*, and unlike the more common shashlik, it is delicious edible ground meat rather than fatty bony tough chunks of meat. So I’ve been asking around as to where in my neighborhood – a ‘burb called Gldani – I could find some of this delicious kababi. So some of the guys in one of my classes offered to take me to the place in Gldani where the “best” kababi could be had.
(*I want to talk a little bit more about this – basically, in the States I ate meat every day, often twice a day, and I ate a lot of it. I find that it just suits me – I feel more energetic, etc. I used to be on a low-carb, high-protein diet, when I used to work out, and I lost a bunch of weight and felt really good, but it was hard to maintain because I love bread and chocolate and soda and beer so much. Anyway this has left me with a certain amount of paranoia that if I don’t get enough meat, some nebulous bad thing will happen to me, although I can’t even really articulate what that might be. Living in a place where meat is relatively expensive has been its own special challenge, but I’ll discuss that more in my Adventures in Cooking in Georgia series.)
So last Wednesday, we met, as scheduled, after their class was over. Myself and four Georgian police – three guys and a girl – went to a restaurant. I proceeded to make a rookie mistake with my drinking: I tried to impress a group of Georgians.
Drinking to impress others is never a good idea. You have to drink for your own reasons in order to maintain that delicate internal harmony of desires that lets you know when you’ve had enough. Whenever you drink for external reasons, you ignore what your body is telling you and put yourself at risk. That’s why drinking games are a bad idea. That’s why trying to keep up with your buddy who is six inches taller and a hundred pounds heavier than you is a bad idea. Etc.
But I was in the company of Georgian police, and I felt like I’d be safe and in good hands. And then there was the other rookie mistake. When you drink something you’ve never had before, you always have to be careful and take it easy until you can get the hang of it. This was my first time drinking Georgian chacha – basically like a sort of grappa/moonshine liquor – and I really had no feel for how strong it was.
So we had a supra. We toasted. A lot. And with each toast I downed a full shotglass of chacha. Except that in retrospect I believe those were two ounce shots, or perhaps more. The woman who was with us wasn’t drinking chacha. Neither was the driver. The other three of us went through two bottles. I also had three beers. We toasted many things. I ate a lot of food. I ate until I was uncomfortable. Then I kept eating.
When it was over, I thought I’d be on my way home, but the driver dropped me and one of the cops off at my local outdoor bar and restaurant, where he ordered us two beers. I drank one sip and expressed in fluent drunkenese that I thought it might be about time for me to go home. My new friend hailed a cab and I got in. I believe it was approximately five pm.
From what I am told, many events occurred subsequent to my getting in that taxi. However, the next thing that *I* remember is waking up in my bed at 7:40 am the next day. At that point I was still in the process of sobering up, so the whole thing seemed kind of funny to me. Later, when I was scrubbing the vomit off the floor of my living room, it was not quite so amusing.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that I have never, ever, ever been that drunk before in my life. I couldn’t eat without feeling nauseous for about four days. The worst part is the shame – I’m pretty proud of both my ability to hold my liquor and my ability to know when to stop, and somehow both of those failed me in a big way last wednesday. No one here has given me a hard time about it – I think the prevailing opinion is that Americans just can’t hang with Georgians when it comes to drinking, but they think it’s cute that I tried.
The second worst part is that I didn’t even like the kababi that much – there was too much dill, really, and it was nothing like that delicious cilantro kababi at Sapovnela. I also prefer my kababi wrapped in lavash (a thin bread, like pita in texture).
So let that be a warning to you: don’t drink more than, say, half a liter of chacha with your three beers, or if you do, space it out over longer than an hour and a half. Otherwise, who knows what could happen?