Georgian Ritual Foods

Georgian Ritual Foods

Georgia, as one of the most ancient countries, has come a long way, but has never broken ties with its historical, cultural, religious, and mythological origins. Over the centuries, many rituals and customs have developed and synergized with Christianity. In the course of time, many of them have been forgotten, while many have been maintained, some having been re-evaluated, and some having changed shape.

In Georgian life, every ritual, whether it is a folk festival, a religious holiday, or a sporting, everyday, or family event, almost always ends with a feast, usually a ritual supra. The main component of that would be the ritual food – khashlama, khachapuri, korkoti, shilaplavi, beef shoulder, or sacred wine. Every region had its own custom and menu, but the main thing was always bread and bread products. 

There are many reasons that you could have for a Georgian supra, but the main value and philosophy has never changed. It is communal sharing, the principle of always standing next to each other – if you have abundance, we share it, if you have misfortune, we share it. Every kind of supra has its own rules, but each one of them obeys the unwritten rule which is called the tradition of the Georgian supra.

The Wedding Menu

The wedding Jvari Bread (“jvari” meaning “cross”), in eastern Georgia, was made of milk and sugar, decorated with crosses and had small birds made of dough attached. Egg was spread over the top. When a family was preparing for a wedding feast, they would start baking bread two or three days in advance. Weddings would traditionally have been held in houses or in canvas tents set up in yards, but they are now usually supras that occur in restaurants or special banquet halls.

The wedding supra is one of the most interesting and multifaceted out of the Georgian supra tradition. Folk memory and literary texts have preserved stories about legendary wedding supras that would be nearly impossible to forget.

The differences between wedding supras can be perceived according to the different regions of Georgia.  In western Georgia, a supra cannot be held without pig, kupati, and chicken, in Guria ghomi and satsivi are necessary, in Samegrelo gebzhalia, elarji, and jurjani are added, in Imereti khachapuri on delicate pans, in Racha you have lobiani, in Meskheti fresh fish, in Kakheti there must be khashlama and guda cheese, in Svaneti kubdari, in Mtiuleti khinkali, but everywhere the standard Georgian wedding menu has a cheese assortment or cheese board, including Imeretian, sulguni, smoked sulguni, and curds wrapped in sulguni slices.

The traditional Georgian holiday dishes of khachapuri and satsivi were always an indelible part of the wedding supra in every region and remain so to this day.

The second necessary assortment is the one with walnuts, including eggplants, spinach, beet pkhali, and green beans. There must also be a pickles assortment, including jonjoli, cucumbers, and bellpeppers. Fried chicken and pork, boiled cow tongue and boiled pig, mtsvadi, sauces, chicken salad, khachapuri, dolma in grape leaves, fully roasted beef, mushrooms on a pan, hot kuchmachi, cucumber and tomato salad, fried fish, fish in bazhe, caviar, olives, bread, various fruits, cookies, cakes, fruit soda, mineral water, and wine – this is what we think is a true royal supra. 

Here, people of any taste can find food that interests them, including vegans and vegetarians. The day after the wedding, you will certainly be given khashi, because that is the best way to get over a hangover.

Taking part in a Georgian wedding supra is being in true festivities. Weddings in Georgia were traditionally planned for the fall, at a time with the menu was more diverse, with boiled corn and pumpkin, pelamushi and churchkhela, and a thousand kinds of fruit, seen as the absolute centerpiece of the supra.

The Mourning Menu

An important characteristic of the Georgian supra is its differentiated character. In distinction to the wedding and celebration supras, the mourning supra was different in both menu and in its vocabulary and wine. It is an interesting fact that mourning supras are different in western and eastern Georgia too.

Western Georgia refuses to have meat dishes at its mourning supras. There the mourning supra is held in high esteem, with only beans, fish, Pkhali with herbs, beets in tkemali, kotrana, various types of Georgian cheese, sweet rice, bread, and wine. The wine, according to ancient custom, must be red. 

Unlike western Georgia, in eastern Georgia, animals are slaughtered in the name of the deceased so that they can bring Khashlama and meat dishes to the supra. Shila plavi is a dish with sheep or lamb meat, which each guest is required to try at least one spoonful of, in order to see off the soul of the deceased. 

Tsandili or korkoti is on the menu of the mourning supra in every region of Georgia. It is made of wheat and normally boiled at home. It is seasoned with walnuts, honey, raisins, and sugar, and they say that every person at the supra should have one spoonful of it. In some regions, the boiled wheat is seasoned with walnuts, garlic, salt, and stir-fried minced onions. 

Whereas a wedding supra lasts for a long time, a mourning supra is short. The tamada only says seven or nine memorial toasts. After that, the closing meal of the supra, shila plavi, arrives and the gathering is over.

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