This is past weekend I was able to see behind the scene preparation for a Georgian supra. My host family was hosting a supra for approximately 14 people on Saturday evening. This meant that my host Bebi, also named Eteri :), was at the apartment on Thursday going over the grocery list with Ea. All I understood was that the list was very long and there was a lot of concern about how many gochebi (piglets) were going to be needed.
Then Friday after school I was put on “making salad” duty. First, I want to explain that Georgian salads are not at all what an American would think of when hearing the word “salad”. There is no lettuce in the majority of salads here, potatoes and cabbage are prevalent and mayonnaise is king of dressings. To begin my salad making, I washed, peeled, chopped, and squeezed vegetables and shredded boiled chicken. Yes, squeezed vegetables and shredded chicken. In order to make a proper Georgian cabbage, carrot, onion, mayonnaise salad, you must thinly slice all, salt, let sit for 30 minutes and then squeeze all excess water out, because water is so bad for you and salt is incredibly healthy! Once all vegetables are properly squeezed, mix them all with cucumber, tomato, pepper, more salt and a large amount of mayonnaise. There you have one salad! The next salad was Georgian potato salad, which is fairly standard peas, potatoes, carrots, chives, and boiled egg (no yolk or “egg heart” as Ea calls it) dressed in salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Next salad was the chicken salad. I took the shredded chicken added some squeezed salted cabbage and onion and mixed in mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Notice a trend?
Saturday morning I awoke to Eteri bringing in cake after cake after cake. There were three large sheet cakes, each three layers. There was not enough room in the kitchen, so they were put in my host mother’s bedroom. Next a tall stack of pizza-sized khachapuris was brought in. The smells coming from the kitchen began to make my mouth water.
Apparently it had been decided that only one gochi was needed. That was brought in next, already roasted and adding to the wonderful aroma wafting throughout the apartment.
I was given the task of setting the table and finding place for all of the food, which is by no means an easy feat. To help visualize the sheer amount of dishes crammed onto the table, it is important to know that they plates used are salad sized, both for serving and eating. Two to three plates of every dish needed to be distributed evenly throughout the table so that nothing was too far out of reach.
These are the dishes I can remember being served organized by plate: bread and mchadi, khachapuri, ostri, fresh whole cucumbers, green onion and tomatoes, mtsvade (skewered beef), fish, badrijani and bulgaruli satsivi, boiled beef, beef and caper stew, potato salad, cabbage salad, chicken salad, organ salad, a lettuce salad vinaigrette, boiled chicken, various pickled vegetables, the cakes, cheese, romi, roe, achmi (a khachapuri that is assembled like a lasagna) and, I cannot remember more. By the end, plates were stacked on top of plates. It really is impressive how much food was crammed onto that table. Then the bowl of fruit had to be placed in the center as well as carafes of wine and bottles of Georgian soda.
During all of the hustle and bustle, the women cooking and preparing nibbled liberally on everything they were making. So when it came time for the women to continue to be in the kitchen preparing more dishes, they were not hungry.
The supra began at 5 and did not end until after midnight. Then Ea decided she wanted to do the clean up then, which meant that I was going to help because there was no way to sleep with my room being off the kitchen. So the two of us made an excellent team and managed to have all of the dishes done, the table cleared and put back but a little after 1am. Then I went to sleep while Ea swept and mopped.
Seeing that supra, has put the “supra” I threw in the United States to SHAME! I have a lot yet to learn. Oh, and the formal toasting tradition is even more complicated than I originally imagined. More on that later.