Abkhasia is a hard land — the Abkhasians, expressing more pride than resentment. say it was one of God's afterthoughts—but it is a beautiful one; if the Abkhasians are right about its mythical origin, God had a good second thought. It is subtropical on its coast along the Black Sea, alpine if one travels straight back from the sea, through the populated lowlands and valleys, to the main range of the Caucasus Mountains.
THE Abkhasians have been there for at least 1,000 years. For centuries they were herdsmen in the infertile land, but now the valleys and foothills are planted with tea and tobacco, and they draw their living largely from agriculture. There are 100,000 Abkhasians,
Until evening, the old spend their time alternating work and rest. A man may pick up wind‐fallen apples, then sit down on a bench, telling stories or making toys for his grand children or great‐grandchildren. Another chore which is largely attended to by the old is weeding the courtyard, a large green belonging to the homestead, which serves as a center of activity for the kin group. Keeping it in shape requires considerable labor, yet I never saw a courtyard that was not tidy and welltrimmed.
Their caloric intake is 23 per cent lower than that of the industrial workers in Abkhasia, though they consume twice as much vitamin C; the industrial workers have a much higher rate of coronary insufficiency and a higher level of cholesterol in the blood.
The Abkhasians eat without haste and with decorum. When guests are present, each person in turn is toasted with praise of his real or imaginary virtues. Such meals may last several hours, but nobody minds, since they prefer their food served lukewarm in any case. The food is cut into small pieces, served on platters, and eaten with the fingers. No matter what the occasion, Abkhasians take only small bites of food and chew those very slowly—a habit that stimulates the flow of ptyalin and maltase, insuring proper digestion of the carbohydrates which form the bulk of the diet. And, traditionally, there are no leftovers in Abkhasia; even the poor dispose of uneaten food by giving it to the animals, and no one would think of serving warmedover food to a guest—even if it had been cooked only two hours earlier. Though some young people, perhaps influenced by Western ideas, consider the practice wasteful, most Abkhasians shun day‐old food as unhealthful.
The Abkhasians eat relatively little meat—perhaps once or twice a week — and prefer chicken, beef, young goat and, in the winter, pork. They do not like fish and, despite its availability, rarely eat it. The meat is always freshly slaughtered and either broiled or boiled to the absolute minimum—until the blood stops running freely or, in the case of chicken, until the meat turns white. It is, not surprisingly, tough in the mouth of a non‐Abkhasian, but they have no trouble with it.
At all three meals, the Abkhasians eat abista, a corn meal mash cooked in water without salt. which takes the place of bread. Abista is eaten warm with pieces of homemade goat cheese tucked into it. They eat cheese daily, and also consume about two glasses of buttermilk a day. When eggs are eaten, which is not very often, they are boiled or fried with pieces of cheese.
The other staples in the Abkhasian diet—staple in Abkhasia means daily or almost so include fresh fruits, especially grapes; fresh vegetables, including green onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage; a wide variety of pickled vegetables, and baby lima beans, cooked slowly for hours, mashed and served flavored with a sauce of onions, peppers, garlic, pomegranate juice and pepper. That hot sauce, or a variant of it, is set on the table in a separate dish for anyone who wants it. Large quantities of garlic are also always at hand.
There are no separate “facts of life” for children and adults: The values given children are the ones adults live by, and there is no hypocritical disparity (as in so many other societies) between adult words and deeds. Since what they are taught is considered important, and the work they are given is considered necessary, children are neither restless nor rebellious. As they mature, there are easy transitions from one status in life to another: a bride, for instance, will stay for a time with her husband's relatives, gradually becoming part of a new clan, before moving into his home.....
The Abkhasians themselves are obviously right in citing their diet and their work habits as contributing factors in their longevity; in my opinion, their postponed, and later prolonged, sex life probably has nothing to do with it. Their climate is exemplary, the air (especially to a New Yorker) refreshing, but it is not significantly different from many other areas of the world, where life spans are shorter. And while some kind of genetic selectivity may well have been at work, there simply is not enough information to evaluate the genetic factor in Abkhasian longevity.
Nicole Alderman wrote:Until seeing this thread, I'd never heard about the Abkhasian people. I did a little research, and didn't find much about their gardens (though some are subtopical, which might explain how they grow citrus). It looks like they are some of the longest living people.
Joy Oasis wrote:Wow, that is amazing, that you actually live there and seen the gardens. I will wait to see, if you find out more with interest. Can you take some photos of those old gardens?