Georgian Supra – Tradition To Be KeptMaka Lomadze
19 July, 2012
Georgian Supra – Tradition To Be KeptMaka  Lomadze

 

Traditions of Georgian supra are widely known world over. The tradition of receiving a guest is something deeply rooted in Georgians. Our great poet Vazha-Pshavela dedicated an epic poem “Guest and Host” to this issue. Even  if an enemy calls on you as a guest, you should treat him with respect, never  argue with him and always protect him. Georgians have a widespread phrase: “Guest is sent by God!” These words characterize our attitude to guests. Perhaps this is the

reason why many foreign visitors are charmed by our hospitality. Stay with us and read about traditional traits of Georgian supra; learn how they are changing together with modern times.

 

Hospitality is typical for all regions of Georgia. Imereli (dweller of Imereti region of western Georgia) did his best to offer everything that was or was not affordable for him. It was a shame not to receive a guest properly, with wine and a variety of dishes. And even if he treated the guest with a lot of dishes, he would still apologize in the end saying: “Sorry, I did not receive you as you deserved it!” Today, especially in the cities, communication becomes so scarce that maybe the reunions themselves are the main dish and the rest of the things - only the trappings. However, if we can afford it, we like to celebrate our birthdays and weddings with a lot of people – more often than not, in bars and restaurants, but birthdays are mostly marked at homes as well. It is worth mentioning that even weddings used to take place in houses some 40 years ago, as there was not a big choice of restaurants. In villages, they would mark weddings at so-called sepa (great tarpaulin under which supra was organized). Such weddings lasted for several days, sometimes even for a week and more.

Each region of Georgia has its unique cuisine. Although, the dishes of Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti, Samegrelo, Guria, Ajara, Racha, Svaneti, Khevsureti and other regions differ from each other by tastes and know-how of preparation; however, they are unified under one common national Georgian cuisine. Particularly rich is the assortment of Imeretian Supra. Here, the top positions are allotted to greens and dairy products. Also, the dominant item is kidney beans. The components are the salad of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes as well as the dishes prepared of potatoes and forest plants. From dairy products, the table is enriched with slices of Imeruli cheese and Sulguni, accompanied with Mchadi and Gomi (national substitutes for bread, made of maize flour). They also make several dishes from cheese. Imeruli supra abounds with a variety of fish. Among the fish trout, salmon, grey mukket from Poti, herring and local fish like khramuli, tsvera and tsimuri are worth of mentioning. Basically they serve fried fish, which is eaten with tkemali, masharabi, coriander sauces and a sauce called bazhe that is made of walnut. Out of cold meat dishes like kuchmachi, roasted piglet, lamb and kid, boiled pluck (gulgvidzli), tongue, assortment of sausages, etc. are distinguished specialties. From poultry they serve fried chicks of different kinds, including wholly boiled and roasted chickens, chakhokhbili, satsivi, chicks in a garlic sauce. The second meal of hot dishes is extremely rich; we can name several of them: mtsvadi, chashushuli, chakapuli, kupati, khinkali, etc.; among the starchy foods  -  khachapuri, shoti bread, and a variety of cakes. In the end comes a rich assortment of fruit and desserts.

Supra is as old as the Georgian nation. It expresses the nation’s ethics, culture and goodness. It implies the honesty and integrity. The supra traditions preserve ethic norms of communications between young and elderly. It is worth to mention the distinct esteem for women, affection to national traditions and to human beings in general. They always choose the head of the table Tamada (toast-master).

Earlier, the institution of Tamada (toast-master) was one of the most respected vocations. He was to be a well-educated, sophisticated man who would demonstrate his knowledge at supra. Successful Tamadas were so popular and so charismatic that there were cases when people hardly managed to drink and eat anything, as they were all ears and eager not to miss a single word, so interesting were his toasts.

Georgian supra, especially Imeruli feast has never been a competition in drinking wine. It was a demonstration of laconic conversation, love, politeness, mutual respect, gentlemanly self-control, devotion to people and motherland. Receiving of guests is a natural condition for a Georgian; however, here one has to observe a golden rule. In this connection, there is a funny expression: “The guest is a gold in the morning, in the noon he turns into a silver and in the evening he becomes a copper.” There is a delusion that the supra is successful if Tamada and other members of the table get drunk. This is a big misconception. As a rule, toasts have to be poetic. Eloquent Tamada will mention the blue skies, fragrant roses, great mountain peaks, lustrous waterfalls, unyielding rocks, etc.  Toasts have to be cheering as well. Everyone are friends at the supra. A stranger may view the praise he receives there as a flatter. It is a golden rule not to mention vices of a person at the supra. If anyone has some, they will wish him to change this trait of character in a polite way. Normally, eating and drinking is on the second place.

Lado Kakhadze is the Georgian successful doctor who has the experience of over 30 years of being Tamada. He admits that he has been to a lot of different countries and discovered that the Tamada institution has no analogue. “Traditionally, if we go back to the 10th century Georgia, there were several obligatory toasts: glory to to Lord, (Uflis sadidebeli), toast to homeland, then came toasts to the king and the queen and in the end, to memory of those who died for the country. I am not a strict person anyway, I am a liberal. I don’t think it is nice to compell people to listen to you all the time, neither are you to interrupt others. A good Tamada will talk so that everyone will listen to him without asking them to do so. It is our national tradition and we should preserve it. Europe won’t need us if we lose our identity. “

Rezi Sadradze is 28 years old. He thinks that the situation is changing because his generation is more inclined to drink beer than wine. “We visit Khinkali houses (Sakhinkle) more frequently as they are more affordable than restaurants. We drink  beer with Khinkali.” With Beer, toasts have become much shorter and more symbolic, while earlier they were compulsory and sometimes, toastmasters even forced people to drain the glasses. “We don’t drink as much as our fathers did, as young people mostly drive and they take caution. Besides, previously, people were not so busy and they were expressing themselves only via feasting. This tradition began with Georgian noblemen who had plenty of spare time. In Guria region, you can find numerous original wine glass-substitutes – they used to drink from oil lamp glass, roof tile and even from the gun. But now it is impossible for a human body to endure so much drinking and workload at the same time,“ Rezi says. In private talks he confesses that he does not approve of prolonged Georgian feasts that used to last forever. “A number of alternative distractions have emerged, entertainment has become international – Internet, cinema, etc. The sphere of interests has increased. If earlier Supra used to be the only place and means of communication, now there are a lot more things. Usually, Tamada should make a toast for all those sitting at the table, otherwise it is viewed as a breach of rule. However, not all Tamadas stick to this ‘golden’ rule.”

 

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