Eat with Pleasure

Stories and Recipes by Jenny Holm

I’ve spent the last couple of days in bed due to a bout with a stomach bug. Now that I’m feeling better, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned thus far about “foods for the infirm” here in Georgia.

Though advice on what I should or should not consume when suffering from a given ailment is often offered less as suggestion and more as heavenly dictate, I maintain that this particularly category of foods is highly culturally specific. In the United States, for instance, we have the BRAT Diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. This will not do in Georgia. Bananas were the stuff of myth here until fewer than 20 years ago, I’ve never seen applesauce in this country (either for sale or homemade), and nobody I know owns a toaster.


Cornelian cherries


Instead, people turn to soup, potatoes, and mineral water. (Georgia is well known in the countries of the former Soviet Union for its numerous mineral springs, which have been purported to cure everything from tuberculosis to leprosy.) Georgian moms brew kompot for their ailing children: fruit boiled down in water and sugar to produce a hot, natural Kool-Aid. My current favorite is apple-peach, but I’ve also had pear-plum and Cornelian cherry-flavored varieties.

I was counseled against eating dairy products as well as anything oily, spicy, or sour. “That means no tomatoes, eggplants, or mushrooms!” my co-teacher Valya informed me when she called to check up on me this morning. “They contain a sourness that our stomachs do not like!’ I could see her finger waving at me from the other end of the line. “What you need is buckwheat!” she added. “Boiled in a just a little milk!” I heard her elderly mother cry in the background.

I tried googling “what do Japanese people eat when they get sick” to see if I could get a cross-cultural comparison going, but all that turned up was reports of those “sick Japan people” consuming dead babies.

So I’m turning to you, readers: what advice have you received from locals while traveling or living abroad on what to eat or avoid when you’re sick?


4 Responses to “How Do You Say BRAT in Georgian?”

  1. Rachel

    Not food, but medicine:

    I was given some insane medication from Bulgaria (never been to Bulgaria, but I had a Bulgarian colleague who had meds on her) that tasted like…orange alka-seltzer? I hate alka-seltzer to begin with and this stuff was even worse, but by god it worked.

    My friend Libby who you may meet when you return to the States has some interesting stories about going to the doctor in India. Basically it’s “here, take these unmarked pills that I’m handing you in a ziploc bag” and you trust it will work out.

  2. Marina

    Well, if it is cold that I am down with, Armenian diet is:
    1. Tea with brandy and honey. 🙂
    2. Tea with fresh or frozen raspberries.
    3. Now, my grandparents lived in Tbilisi for a long time, so, soup chkhrtma (this is a georgian chicken-lemon soup) was always cooked when someone was sick in the house.
    4. Kisel’ with cornelian cherries – Cherries boiled with a little bit of water and starch.
    5. mashed or boiled potatoes


    • Jenny Holm

      Sounds familiar, Marina! I haven’t had chkhirtma yet, but maybe I’ll ask for it next time I get sick 🙂 Or better yet, the tea with brandy…in fact, maybe I’ll have that NOW!!

  3. Elisa

    In Japan they make a rice gruel and usually an IV drip.
    Our cure in the US (from Jewish Grandmas’) is always chicken soup!


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