I’ve completely outgrown buying souvenirs every place I go. Now don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all the locally handmade items, especially textiles and sometimes it takes a very strong will to say no. But I do say no, because I really want to be a minimalist. Why? To be honest I hate to dust. That’s the reason. At any rate, I rarely buy anything other than food items that will undoubtedly be consumed and will never require dusting.
A Cooking Lesson and a Quest
So, it came as surprise to both Jim and I when I was totally taken with Marta’s khinkali ladle. For one thing, I love handmade, especially crudely handmade, items. Her ladle looked like it was hand-carved and it was huge! On top of that, she flat out told me that it was “special” and there was no way I would ever find one to buy. Well, if you know me, I just cannot pass up a challenge like that. I was on a quest for my perfect souvenir from Georgia.
Luckily, it was only the second day of our time in Georgia when we had our amazing cooking lesson in Telavi, so I had the entire rest of the trip to try and find my own ladle, which I was going to buy no matter what. To Marta’s credit, I searched and searched and there were no huge, wooden ladles to be found. The other restaurants used colanders or metal ladles, but not wooden. Souvenir stores didn’t really have kitchen tools at all. They had wonderful stuff, but I was on a mission and only had eyes for ladles.
Our trip progressed and, as you know, Jim and I pretty much drove all over the country, from town to town after our time in Tbilisi. In many of the towns we passed, especially on the more rural roads, the locals would set up shop to sell passersby their wares. One town sold hammocks, another car parts and oil, yet another had special breads, but the one that I really paid attention to was the town that sold handmade wooden objects and baskets.
Maybe this is where I would find that perfect souvenir. Vendor stall after vendor stall hung wooden items of all shapes and sizes and I kept looking for that ladle. All of the stalls had spoons, some quite large, but until the very last one, none had handmade holes bored into them. But yes, I found it.
Jim dutifully pulled over telling me to hurry so that we wouldn’t get stuck behind those trucks we had recently passed on this hilly route. I practically threw my money at the lady as she cut the string off of my ladle. I was back in the car in no time, triumphant! My ladle is definitely as large, if not larger than Marta’s! It is almost a yard long, and the spoon part is about 10 inches in diameter. It’s huge. It’s awesome. I was happy.
Getting My Perfect Souvenir Through Security
Well, I was happy until I started packing for the airplane and guess what? My prized possession did not fit into my luggage. This didn’t really bother me too much, but I knew that everyone would be looking at it and maybe prompting questions from security, which, let’s face it, nobody wants.
And as luck would have it, the very first security check it happened. You know those early luggage-checking machines that are located right inside the door of the airport? The handler looked at it, looked at me, I smiled, and he waved me through, but whispered to me that they might not let it through security…like I’m sure he probably shouldn’t have either.
We got up to the check in counter and the same thing happened again. The ticket agent called the manager. The manager came out, looked at the spoon, looked at me, I smiled, and he asked, “What is this?”
I answered, “A khinkali spoon! I love khinkali!”
“You love khinkali? You buy a spoon? Okay, but please they may not let you through security.” Now, I’m starting to wonder if my spoon was going to make it.
At the official security station, I put it through the machine, and guess what? The security guard asked me what is was. “A khinkali spoon. I love khinkali! I learned how to make it while I was here.”
“You make khinkali?”
“Yes! I can’t wait to make it when I get home.” I didn’t bother to tell him I’m not very good at it.
He looked at the spoon, looked at me, I smiled, and, and….he waved me through! My khinkali spoon was through security! We were going home together.
For someone who doesn’t normally buy a souvenir, I guess I needed to buy one with a great back story and what a perfect symbol for my dumpling project!
Have you ever been on a quest for that perfect souvenir?
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.