Georgians Want Their Government on a Diet
Amid mounting accusations of gluttony, the Georgian finance ministry has decided to run official dinner menus by taxpayers, who are increasingly averse to groaning under the weight of the government’s dinner table.
A Georgian dinner party, or supra, is known for its gastronomic excesses. No square centimeter is usually left vacant on the table, when Georgians start piling up the dishes. Yet they don't want to let their government do the same at official receptions.
The dining habits of Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri have become the talk of the town, with copies of the ministry’s restaurant invoices bandied about online and broadcast on national TV. When he takes an official delegation out for dinner, Minister Khaduri tends to go the whole hog . . .or rather the whole lamb.
Many Georgians found the 4,000-lari ($2,282) dinner, complete with an entire roast lamb, that Khaduri shared with an official delegation from France a bit hard to digest. That bill is roughly five times the size of a Georgian household's average monthly income, according to Geostat. The 43-year-old minister’s rotund physique only encouraged the criticism.
In vain did Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili try to defend his cabinet minister’s culinary policy, arguing that 4,000 lari is well within the ballpark for an official reception. “He [Khaduri] did not eat all of it alone,” Gharibashvili pointed out.
But when another, now 7,246-lari (4,4140) restaurant invoice hit online and broadcast media, a new wave of censure and calorie-counting began. “Fifty portions of shashlik [barbequed meat], 23 fried chicken, a 300-lari roast lamb . . ." detailed TV3 in a report about the finance ministry’s latest gastronomic indulgence at a swanky retreat.
The ministry countered that it had to entertain 80 guests from IMF and the World Bank, but the journalists relentlessly continued: “Four types of wine, chacha [Georgian brandy], and an entertainment show….” Critics charge that the ministry only excels at eating and feeding their guests, while little has been done to fix the economy.
Sick of this hounding, Khaduri decided to democratize his dine-and-wine spending. The ministry has begun posting on its Facebook page the menus for upcoming dinners and encouraging taxpayers to suggest corrections.
Decide for yourself if this is overeating. The menu for an upcoming 120-person reception offers the following:
Per person: One cucumber and tomato salad, one chicken salad, one Olivier salad [potatoes, carrots, pickles in mayonnaise], one chicken-liver salad, eggplant with hazelnut stuffing, assorted cheese, cheese with mint, a pickle platter, olives, barbequed veal, spicy beef, chicken liver roasted in a clay pan, fried potatoes, pan-fried mushrooms, meat blini, hazelnuts and beans cooked in clay pots, fried trout, fish with vinegar sauce, fried chicken, khachapuri [the quintessential Georgian cheese-filled pastry], bread, cornbread, soda, mineral water, and wine.
Amid a steady stream of angry comments on the ministry’s Facebook post, some suggested taking out the chicken-liver dishes. “Nobody eats them anyway," the reasoning went.
The finance ministry has not yet responded. Probably too busy eating, some might say.