There is more to this picture than what immediately meets the eye, and a rough reminder that not all is glossy in rural life. I’ve spent much of this week in Svaneti, a secluded region in the mountains of northernmost Georgia – a place that is truly untouched by the tramples of modern life. Villages of old stone houses huddle between sheer mountains of unimaginable beauty. Dirt tracks are well-trodden paths of streaming water and cow dung. Cows, pigs and chickens graze freely, hunched old women carry home their harvested potatoes, carts of hay trundle along with old men lying on top of them. Bucolic bliss!
One evening, we sat eating a dinner of boiled potatoes, fresh cheese and mounds of hot cheesy khachapuri. We’re staying with a Svan farming family and its with them that we sit, eat and try to converse in their one large room. The wood-fired stove provides the only warmth in the house.
Suddenly, the screeches and screams of a pig could be heard, blood-curdling and drawn out. Impossible to mistake. Nobody flinched, expect me, naive as I am. Not so long later, they haul the slaughtered pig right onto the kitchen table (as we’re eating) and my dear hosts start to gut it. Chabuki stands with torch at the ready, while his old uncle spills the insides of the poor pig – he pulls out sacks of intestines and guts, which old hunched Nora is ready to take with bowl in hand. Next the liver, heart and kidneys are cut out – delicacies set aside for a good meal. The rest of the family is sat around the TV (some Bollywood drama dubbed into Georgian) laughing at my shocked expression. What an ignorant townie I have become. I couldn’t believe it!
Reflecting on it now, I think it would do us all some good to have a newly slaughtered pig gutted on our kitchen table. The hard realities of farm life that most of us would rather not see at all.