Georgia’s addictive cousin to pizza?

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Khachapuri, a gooey, addictive, cheese-stuffed flatbread, is ubiquitous in Georgia. However, most bakers believe that it can only be made properly by happy people.

Khachapuri, a gooey, addictive, cheese-stuffed flatbread, is ubiquitous in Georgia, the Caucasian country that shares borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey. Except for when there’s a funeral.

In Georgia, one is never further than a ball-of-dough’s throw from khachapuri. Everything from corner bakeries to upscale restaurants serve the snack. And while certain versions of it are pizza-like, a recent poll found that 88% of Georgians still prefer it to pizza. In fact, khachapuri is so popular that economists have coined the term Khachapuri Index, inspired by the Big Mac Index once created by the Economist. In this Caucasian case, Georgian economists monitor inflation by tracking the production and consumption of the main ingredients in khachapuri: flour, cheese, butter, eggs, milk and yeast.

Despite khachapuri’s importance to Georgian cuisine, however, food scholars and historians can’t seem to agree on its origins. But according to Dali Tsatava, food writer and former professor of gastronomy at the Georgian Culinary Academy in Tbilisi, khachapuri could be a cousin to pizza. “Roman soldiers were coming through the Black Sea area and brought with them recipes for something that resembled pizza,” she said as we sat in a cafe in central Tbilisi. “Tomatoes didn’t exist in Europe until the 16th Century, so it was just baked bread and cheese, not unlike khachapuri.”

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