For Irma Nikoladze, a trip to the boutique bakery in her neighborhood in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, has become a ritual.
“It is my bi-weekly treat,” said the 33-year-old bank clerk, pointing at a multi-grain loaf. “I grew up thinking that bread was just . . . shoti [a traditional Georgian-style, canoe-shaped, stone-baked loaf] and the [factory-made] baton, but when I traveled to Europe in 2005, I discovered there was so much more than that.”
Among those fortunate enough to be counted among Georgia’s middle class, the last few years have been defined in part by culinary exploration.
“Food habits are the first to adapt to higher purchasing power,” observed sociologist Emzar Jgerenaia, who heads the National Library’s Department of Science, Culture and Civil Education. “You make more money, you show you can buy more expensive food.”
In the past 24 years, millions in the former Soviet Union have moved into the middle class. Georgia is no exception. In 2013, about 40 percent of 3,105 respondents in a survey by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers identified themselves as middle class.
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Monica Ellena is a Tbilisi-based freelance journalist.