This Little Piggy Went to Market
The huge food markets of Tbilisi are not for the squeamish. Vegetarians look away now.
I’m interested in how food reaches big cities from the countryside where it’s grown. In Paris, much of what we eat comes through the vast food market of Rungis, just outside the city, where all the buyers for the markets and restaurants source everything from fish to meat to vegetables and fruit. It’s a wholesale market—you go there to buy a cow, not a steak. In Tbilisi, the capital city of the ramshackle, beautiful country of Georgia (in the Caucasus), things are a little more simple. A total lack of food retail stores means that a few, vast food markets scattered around the city provide the food for it’s 1¼ million inhabitants. The sight of well-dressed housewives buying whole recently-slaughtered piglets or cow’s heads was a visual reminder of how sanitized our food chain has become in the west. I’ve been to food markets all over the world, but never seen anything remotely approaching this. It also made for great photos—not top quality, I admit (I felt a bit sheepish snapping away at people shopping), but eye-opening to say the least.
The fascinating thing is that despite the engulfing poverty of the country, food seems to be in no short supply. Given the cost of fertilizer and pesticide, much of this was (probably) ‘organic’ or at least produced with traditional farming methods. I.e. very tasty. And all pretty much local. You can see why the country was traditionally so rich: it’s clearly got productive soil. The river fish had huge strong tails—no farm fish these. And this was my first glimpse of perhaps the world’s only carrot gangster. I have more photos, even more gory than these, that I’d be happy to email for any Hannibal Lector fans among you.
Jack is a Trufflepig partner and trip planner who made this vegetarian editor wince when he sent along his photos. If you, our carnivore readers, are interested in more information (or more photos), contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.