Georgian Food, Russian Delivery
31 January, 2013
Georgian Food, Russian Delivery
In New York city, it is common to go to authentic Italian restaurants and hear greetings from hosts in Italian. Same happens when entering authentic French bistros and in Japanese restaurants the entire kitchen staff yells a hello in Japanese. By the same logic, one would expect while entering an authentic Georgian Restaurant to be greeted in Georgian, or English, but definitely not in Russian.
To be fair, the newly opened Pepela New York, is a truly Georgian restaurant in
the sense that the menu is Georgian, the head chef is Georgian, the entertainment is Georgian, but it does have two owners, one Russian and one Georgian. Perhaps that is the reason why most of the wait staff, except for one waiter, are Russian speaking. It would be unrealistic to expect an all out Georgian restaurant in middle of Manhattan, but one can hope.  The problem was that in the recent few months that I have followed Georgian politics, the nation seems to have gotten closer and closer to Russia. Georgia is about to start selling tangerines and other fruits and wine on the Russian market, (after they go through Russian inspection which is supposed to make sure the Georgian product is up to Russian standard, but in reality it is just another way to drain more money out of the companies competing for the market) and somehow that is supposed to make up for two wars and occupation that is still ongoing. It is painful to watch people make the same mistakes they have made in past expecting different results. The Russian market is being dangle in front of the Georgian commerce and Georgians seems to forget that Russians have closed markets before and they can, and will do it again. The invitation to the birthday party held at Pepela came from an American friend of mine, so she was not aware of the discomfort I was feeling when waiters would butcher words like ‘kachapuri’ and ‘mkhali’ and generally ignored me when I couldn’t respond to their questions in Russian. The restaurant was promoted as a Georgian restaurant in US, so I expected to be spoken to either in Georgian or in English. I don’t go to Italian restaurants expecting to hear Portuguese, or Greek restaurants expecting to hear Armenian, so why was I required to speak Russian in a Georgian place? I have no issues with the language; I do speak Russian whenever someone needs help. Recently this happened with an elderly gentleman who was lost in the New York Public library. He was Lithuanian and his English was very bad, and all he wanted to do was find a particular Lithuanian poet.  He couldn’t explain it in English, so he tried Russian, but the desk clerks didn’t speak that language either. I was just visiting the library myself and I recognized someone who needed help and did not hesitate to speak with him in Russian and help him. I have no dislike for the language itself, but while listening to Georgian music, eating Georgian food and teaching my curious American friends how to properly pronounce Georgian word for water, the incessant pestering of Russian waiters with “Chto eshcho khotite?” (What else would you like?), was leaving a very unpleasant taste in my mouth.  I’ve had it finally and told one of the waiters in English that I did not bring my Russian dictionary with me, and so please either find us a Georgian waiter or speak English. I know I could have answered in Russian, I could have made their lives easy, but why? Why should I, a Georgian customer, be making their lives easy? It’s this mentality that everyone from the former republics must accommodate Russians that is still prevailing as if nothing had changed since the fall of the USSR. When I complained about the Russian wait staff to my friend, he pointed out that one thing had changed. This time a Georgian was being served by Russians and not vice versa.
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