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Travel, kids and food: How to cope when there is nothing the kids will eat! or Kids and food in the Republic of Georgia!

Learning to eat Khinkhali

Learning to eat Khinkhali

I always tell families that no matter where they travel to, they’ll always find something for the kids to eat.

But in some extreme cases this may be more difficult to achieve. Definitely the most challenging destination that we have traveled to food-wise was the Republic of Georgia.

This former Soviet Republic was in days gone by a famous vacation spot renowned for its incredible food and famous wines. Things have changed though. While it is certainly one of the most fascinating destinations we have ever been to, we found eating a huge challenge!

Georgians regard their food very highly – it is a mix of West and East using  plenty of pomegranates, walnuts and other exotic ingredients. The Khachapuri cheese bread is famous as are the Khinkali dumplings.

But for us the challenges were many:

1) Language – we like to know what it is we are eating. Outside of the capital Tbilisi, it was almost impossible to find a menu in English (or any other language for that matter) and most Georgians don’t speak anything other than Georgian or perhaps Russian. The Georgian language has its own alphabet so even recognising familiar words is impossible.

2) Salt and salt and salt. Most things, especially salads, were doused in salt. It was mighty difficult to eat.

3) cholesterol – what’s that?

On our first day in Batumi, we ordered the specialty Adjara kachapuri cheese bread – it came with at least a pound of butter and a few eggs floating on top – if we had ordered one to share between the family I think it would have been ok, but we ordered five!! Live and learn.

Selling fruit out of the trunk of the car

Selling fruit out of the trunk of the car

So how did we cope? We went back to basics. We found grocery stores and made our own meals whenever we could. We bought fruit and took it back to the hotel. We stayed in homestays and guesthouses where someone spoke English and we could explain exactly what we wanted. In Tbilisi we found a Thai restaurant we loved and a local Georgian chain of restaurants that even the kids found they liked, and we even ate at McDonalds, something extremely rare in our family. Ask the kids today what their favorite meals in Georgia were, and invariably they’ll say McDonalds.

As for drinks, this was no problem. Georgia produces all kinds of incredible lemonades – and the kids loved these. Fruit juices and sodas were common, though we didn’t like the very famous mineral water, which was naturally salty.

And what about the local food? I enjoyed some of it a lot – the cheese bread was excellent most of the time, the yoghurt that we ate in the guest houses was incredibly fresh and seemingly came straight from the cows – it had clearly never seen a pasteurization facility, and the dumplings were outstanding. It’s just that by and large, the kids didn’t like any of it very much. As for the wine, the Georgians still make incredible wine – and I’d never heard of any of the varietals!

So, my advice if you find yourself in a similar situation is this:  use local supermarkets and create your own meals, and if that doesn’t work, at least find someone who speaks English to help you!