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Georgia: Where Feasting Traditions Are Movable

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A Georgian supra is a traditional dinner party that requires days of preparation, depending on the number of guests expected.

Feasting and toasting have long been an integral part of Georgia’s cultural identity. But shifting priorities mean that Georgians are redefining the custom of banquets, known as supras.

“The à la fourchette (a quickie meal featuring cold cuts) is fighting against the supra … and I don’t know which one will win,” said sociologist Emzar Jgerenaia, director of the National Library’s Department of Science, Culture and Civil Education.

The faceoff is not about food alone. In a region awash with foreign influences, the supra (derived from the Georgian word for tablecloth) used to serve for many as a line of defense for Georgian identity.

The feast’s liturgy of dozens of toasts -- presided over by a tamada, or toastmaster, and delivered in stylized Georgian -- “represent strong oral traditions, histories,” which “saved” Georgian culture from centuries of invaders, commented 59-year-old geologist Vasili Tabagari, a tamada with 42 years of toasting experience.

“Willingly or not, you learn something,” he said wryly.

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Molly Corso is a freelance journalist who also works as editor of Investor.ge, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.

Georgia: Where Feasting Traditions Are Movable

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