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Georgian cuisine

Georgian national dish Khinkali
National dish "Khinkali" meat in dough bags © Restaurant Pepela

Georgia is one of the most exciting new food frontiers as it melds the very best of its own recipes and ingredients along with Persian, Arab, Turkish, Russian and Asian influences. 

  Chris Dwyer, travel & food writer for CNN, BBC, SCMP et al.

Georgian cuisine - fresh and light

The Georgian cuisine stands out by freshenss and intensity, it is genuine, natural and healthy. Its ingredients are exceptionally versatile, benefitting from the luxury of greens and vegetables available throughout three quarters of the year. 

The more important a guest, the more traditional the dishes. The Georgian cuisine has a wide range of local refined dishes, particularly appetisers such as cooked vegetables elegantly seasoned with coriander and mint, wallnut and garlic. But also very uniquely prepared beef and veal, pork, lamm and goat, and always with its natural flavour as the focus.

A gourmet cook was once asked in the Georgian mountain region Tushetien, if he could guess which greens his meal was prepared with. The cook listed a number of spices. The shephards loughed and answered, "all this grows here and our sheep graze on these pastures. The lamm you just had was just boiled with salt!" 

The flavours of individual dishes develop especially well in the open air. For the perfect gourmet delight a Georgian meal is accompanied by the traditional light land wine. 

Wine and bread in Georgia

Weinreise Georgien Brotbacken
Traditional bread baking in Georgia © Armin Schmolinske

Wine carries a very special significance in Georgia, truely unique to this country and equally important is bread for the Georgian table. Even nowadays, mostly home-baked in the typical round clay oven ("toné") and often baked with the corn from their own fields, bread is greatly appreciated by Georgians.

Apart from the much effort put into the long process starting with sowing all the way to the warm bread brought onto the table, this is not least due to the Last Supper which lends bread such great and noble importance. Bread is an essential element of the Georgian food culture. When a table is laid, bread is put right in the middle of it and all the other dishes are grouped in a circle around the bread basket.

The Georgian table

The sight of the table blew us away. It was about fourteen feet long, it was loaded with dishes, and there were about twenty guests at the table. I believe this was the only dinner we have ever had, where a roasted chicken was meant as an appetiser. ... And the worst about the whole thing was that everything tasted delicious. The smells were all new and mouthwatering, and we wanted to taste everything. And we almost died because we overate.

John Steinbeck, A Feast in Colchis (Ein Gastmahl in der Kolchis), 1948

The Georgian table, the so called "Supra" impresses by an incredible palette of different dishes. For a family occasion, such as a wedding or a funeral, there are usually 150-250 guests expected. The Menu consists of about five courses with at least seven different appetisers, not to mention mountains of bread and brimful jugs of wine.

Georgien Weinreise gedeckter Tisch
Traditionally laid table © Katrin Tevdorashvili

All this food is artfully arranged on plenty of dishes and bowls and brought before the guests all at once if possible. Every guest must be able to help himself any dish of his choice without having to leave his seat.  

Everything is arranged in smaller portions, there is only one silent rule here to be followed: in case of a sad event the portions have to be uneven, and in case of a joyfull event even in number. Piles of additional plates with fruits, pies and cakes get higher and higher in the course of the evening. Ideally, after the end of the feast the table is just as lush as at the beginning.

A Georgian household is always and to any time ready to receive a large number of guests. If a fork falls from the table the proverb goes: "stumari modis - a guest is coming!"

Hospitality in Georgia

Belongingness. It comes easy in Georgia. A guest at your home: an honour. Nothing will be kept back, hidden. Nobody says: we have nothing, and what we do have we keep for ourselves. The table must be full, the glasses overflowing. Bring light and warmth and music for the guest! 

Andrea Jeska, German journalist, "Eurasisches Magazin", 30. March 2003

Hospitality is a matter of course in Georgia. Dumas, Chirdin, Pasternak, Pushkin, Lermontov, Hamsun or Laurens van der Post, whoever travelled in Georgia has incredible things to tell, how warmly welcomed and royally served they were by Georgians. 

There was an elderly man, a loyal visitor to the CMT Stuttgart tourism exhibition, who had been to Georgia as a prisoner of war. Without missing a single fair, it was touching to watch how he ensured there was always plenty of food for the Georgians' stand, in memory of generosity of the Georgian people.

The guest in Georgia

Weinreise Georgien Mittagessen
Harvest helpers during vintage of wine © Katrin Tevdorashvili

The guest enjoys the highest status in Georgia, the trust given to the guest is limitless. It even went so far that, in the remote mountain regions, were blood feud was long a component of legal life, your home when seeked as a shelter guaranteed inviolability even to your own enemy. 

To this day it is common in the countryside that a traveller is offered a meal and an accommodation. The concept "tourist" is still somewhat strange to a Georgian; they come as travellers and therefore as guests, and the guest is always from God.

 

The guest is a present from God.

Georgian proverb.

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