“Georgian Snickers”


Georgian joke . . . So, a Georgian fellow is heading to America and customs has decided to search his bags. The custom agent comes across a number of long, dark, odd-looking items, lifts one and gruffly demands to know, “What’s this?” The Georgian gentleman struggles with his English as he nervously tries to explain the object so common to him, which now suddenly look like a great place for hiding drugs. After many failed attempts, he triumphantly blurts out – “It’s a Georgian Snickers!” 

So “What is a “Georgian Snickers?” you ask. Why Churchkhela, of course.

And, “What pray tell is Churchkhela?” 

It’s an ancient, simple food that, I’ve been told, helped mountain men survive in the past and continues to delight Georgians of all ages today. You see, the ingredients and longevity of the Churchkhela made it perfect for long journeys; it was healthy, tasted good, provided nourishment, and was easy to carry and store. Today it reminds folks of simpler times and still tastes good.

Pronounced “church-kella”, it’s not a pretty thing at first glance; it looks like a sausage left hanging to dry, and is made in a similar fashion to hand-dipped candles!

Without further ado, I present Churchkhela . . .

Last step of the cooking process, Churchkhela hanging to dry

My first encounter with this delightful treat was on a Sunday drive to the special mountain village Sighnaghi (Signagi) with my wonderful Georgian host family. Once the traffic of Tbilisi was far behind us, and our car seemed perpetually inclined upward, I started seeing what I assumed was sausage hanging along the roadside. Just when I decided to ask, “What’s that?”, our car began pulling off the road. I wasn’t sure why, but hoped it had something to do with the “sausage.”

Here’s where we stopped because, and as you can see, this enterprising Grandma had covered her Churchkhela with lace to keep the dust from the road to a minimum.

Churchkhela entrepreneur.

She assured my hosts that her Churchkhela was natural, and made without water. “Hmm, without water,” I said to myself after they translated for me. I assumed the lack of water was a good thing because the woman was excitedly repeating that phrase.

By this time I knew were weren’t dealing with sausage, but had no clue what the waxy looking substance was.  We bought two, and climbed back into the car. By now I was brimming with anticipation, like a child waiting for the wrapper to be removed from a  Halloween candy bar. A few seconds later a chunk of Churchkhela was plopped into my hand, and my excitement waned as I felt the hard wax surface in my fingers. I was thinking, “Hmm, looks like bumpy wax, feels like bumpy wax,” as I was being urged from the back seat to “Take a bite.”  

Moments like these are common during Peace Corps service, anticipation and trepidation meld into one, as your stomach and soul shout don’t do it and your heart and mind say “Go ahead”, tempting you with the implicit dare in the age-old question “How bad can it be? You are poised on the edge of a gastronomical diving board, you want to take the plunge, and yet, you can’t quite dive in.

After repeated urgings from numerous family members, and guarantees it wasn’t hot – I had already fallen for that one earlier in the week – my teeth broke through the waxy substance, which quickly brought to mind a  childhood Halloween favorite, waxed lips.

My taste buds seemed to recognize a flavor that I couldn’t place. I bit all the way through the candle/sausage and tasted walnuts along the way. Hmm, familiar with this territory I chewed on. Nice texture, not too sweet, chewy without being sticky. I dove in with full force and was soon enjoying my first Churchkhela on my first road trip in Georgia. 

I quickly began asking “What is it?” “How is it made?” I was delighted to hear, that later that day I would get to see the process first-hand.

After our trip to Sighnaghi, a beautifully renovated mountain town in eastern Georgia, where more Churchkhela and these lovely handmade items were offered for sale . . .

Bite-size Churchkhela along side sausage-style

Traditional Wool Caps

These beautiful scarves were oh, so delicately woven.

. . . we arrived at the home of another warm and welcoming family member, and the Churchkhela-making fun began.

The process of making Churchkhela started outdoors on an ancient wooden table under a grape arbor. Freshly made white grape juice (no water) was poured into a large pot, and what seemed like cups and cups of flour was tossed in. My host sister began the slow process of stirring the mixture to make sure not a single lump – large or small – remained.

Stirring flour into the white grape juice.

The same pot was then transferred to the stove and again stirred until it reached a rich dark caramel color paste-like consistency; then we dipped/plunged these hand threaded walnut ropes into the piping hot mixture.

Threaded walnuts, can you imagine how carefully you have to handle these little guys?

Then we very gently maneuvered the boiling hot treat across the kitchen to the broom handle laying across the back of two chairs, lift one end of the broom handle and slid the latest Churchkhela into place, which I quickly learned is much, much easier said than done. (See first photo.)

I also learned that the long and delicate caramel-looking thread at the dipped end of the Churchkhela is the mark of an accomplished Churchkhela maker. Mine were stumpy, but still tasted great – I’ve been knawing on one as I write this post. It is  mighty tasty, less sweet then dried fruit or a fruit roll-up. I’ve decided it is the beef-jerky of dried fruit – it tires out your jaws, but is as much fun eat as it is to make.  

Churchkhela batter is also served cold like this, but tastes even better warm from the pot.

For those of you,  who would like to make this interesting goodie, click here,  here or here for more info and photos.  Churchkhela is also made with almonds, hazelnuts and dried fruits including persimmons so feel free to mix it up!
And, for those who just want to pause and take in the sights from our road trip, enjoy. 

Iron fence along the road.


The Georgian village Singali, where you can see for miles.


A horse, but you probably guessed that.

In front of the wedding hall. I was wondering why the statue was so small, but then I met . . .

. . . this kind store keeper, and figured it out. I towered over her and, I am 5 foot 4!

Like so many mountain-top towns and castles, Sighnaghi is surrounded by a stone wall, which you can see in the distance.


And, thus ends the tale of my first adventure in the beautiful, surprising country of Georgia. Hope your week is full of sweet surprises, too.

Travels, timelines and tales


“The flip side of wanting something involves doing something.”

P. Koerper, 8/29/2011

Yes, I am quoting myself, again, but I can’t help it. You see, one week from today, I will be starting a bit of an adventure . . .

First stop the ancient, beautiful, mountainous, country of Macedonia, where I lived and worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) from 2006-2009. I will be visiting my warm and wonderful Macedonian friends and presenting a two-day seminar related to a project I worked on as a PCV. I will also be doing some Wishful Thinking Works presentations, some coaching and hosting an American traveler, who heard me talk about Macedonia at a library presentation this year and decided she wanted to check out this great little country while I am there. (She’s very cutting-edge, Macedonia was one of CNBC – Top 10 Travel Picks for 2011. Plan to join me there next year.)


Second stop, the Republic of Georgia, where I’m scheduled to head to in September or October for a three-month assignment as a Peace Corps Response Corps Volunteer!  Needless to say,  I’m excited about both journeys!

I’m updating you on my plans because they relate to the Wishful Thinking Works blog in two ways:

1. I’ll be blogging on Mondays about Wishful Thinking Works topics, and hopefully once a week about Macedonia and later Georgia. I will have great internet connectivity in Macedonia and should have same in Georgia, but if miss a post or two, please know it is all part of the adventure. And, I do apologize for missing or posting late, lately, but between Peace Corps requests and requirements and my personal procrastination for gathering or submitting paperwork, I fell a bit behind. (Did you know that rabies shots haven’t been given in the belly for more than 20 years, and there are only a series of three, not the twenty or so rumored in my youth? I learned that first-hand/arm this month.)

2. The second way my travels relate to Wishful Thinking Works is they truly are part of my creating the life I really want. Reconnecting with friends, finding new ways to live and share what I’ve learned throughout my career and through creating Wishful Thinking Works, learning more new things, and being a part of Peace Corps is important to me, and help me flourish. I like that.

That said, it is always hard to leave friends and family behind, to picture the holidays with new faces instead of familiar ones, and to challenge myself in different ways, but the flip side of wanting something involves actually doing something. So I’m packing my bags, thankful that the Internet makes connecting in so many ways so easy and I’m heading back out the door knowing exciting experiences, friends, and tales to be told are waiting for me.

If you don’t hear from me until next week, I’ll be saying good-bye to folks I love and trying to stuff five months of cooler weather clothes into two suitcases.

Talk to you soon.


PS Here is a short video about a PCV in Georgia. Looks like I will be comparing Georgian wine to Macedonian wine soon, I like that, too. (Always remember – part of flourishing is having fun!)


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