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.