20th OCTOBER 2012
Spending on feasting and wine is better than hoarding our substance.
That which we give makes us richer, that which is hoarded is lost.
-Shota Rustaveli, 12C Georgian poet
A REAL GEORGIAN FEAST
Georgian cuisine is not well known, but those who know Georgia know that it's famous for its hospitality and its Georgian Feasts (see attached photo). An independent nation until the early 1700s (when it was annexed by the Russian Empire), Georgia has a proud and long history, was the second Christian nation after Armenia in 327AD, and in fact the Golden Fleece of Jason and the Argonauts is likely to have been Georgian. It was also an important nation despite its size, controlling part of the Silk Road trade routes. When it became part of Russia, Georgia was the most southern part of the empire, with a sub-tropical climate, and the only region able to grow grapes (Georgia supplied all the wine and champagne in communist Russia) and tea (ditto), as well as many fruits and vegetables. Due to the "exoticness" of Georgia to the Russians, and perhaps also because Stalin was from Georgia, it is the one nation which has been able to keep its own language and writing in schools, even through the Soviet years. Georgian in fact is its own whole branch in the evolution of languages and bears no relation to any others. Thus its culture has remained very distinct, and to a great extent, so has its food. Russian food does not use much aubergines, coriander, walnuts and pomegranates, for example (and if it does, they came from Georgia!).
Another highly unusual aspect of Georgian cuisine is that it uses both dill and coriander leaf in the cuisine, often in the same recipes. This to me exemplifies the location of Georgia - straddling North and South, in between Russia and Turkey. Dill is such a northern herb, and coriander leaf such a southern one. But Georgia also straddles Asia and Europe, being in fact on the Silk Road, so you also see aspects similar to Middle Eastern cooking in the meze-style feasts, as well as northern-style dishes such as dumplings, and of course Russian influenced dishes. There is one more odd thing about Georgian cuisine and that is the fall of the Iron Curtain. Georgia became so cut off from the south that imported spices that previously existed in the cuisine like saffron and cumin became unobtainable. So when I was there I found that although similar-looking (but not tasting) spices shared similar names, they were clear substitutes for what I presume originally were the real thing. That also contributes to making Georgian food quite distinct from other world cuisines.Come and try a real Georgian feast for yourselves. The menu will include:
Khachapuri - the ubiquitous traditional Georgian Cheese Bread
Mtsvane Pamidori - Green tomatoes with carrots
Isphanaki Phkali - Spinach with spices
Chicken Satsivi- Chicken in a Walnut sauce
Chanacki - Baked Lamb with aubergine and potatoes (vegetarian option available)
Chirbuli - Cauliflower with Eggs
Lobio - classic Georgian Beans cooked homestyle
Red Beet Phkali - Beetroot with walnuts
Chicken and Lettuce Salad - With pomegranate seeds and cooked lettuce! (vegetarian option available)
Badrijiani - Aubergines stuffed with walnuts and pomegranate seeds
Beet and Bean Tkemali - With a plum sauce
Georgian Salad made with cold pressed virgin sunflower oil
dessert will be a scrumptious Georgian version of baklava, Phaklava - made with, you guessed it, walnuts, quite unlike its middle-eastern counterparts, for dessert, and pomegranates
And, we promise you won't be able to see the tablecloth for the number of dishes on the table, in true Georgian fashion. You'll be begging us to stop... they did last time anyway!
Click here to see a map of Georgia: http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/profile/georgia.pdf
If you'd like to see more photos of Georgia, I have put an album on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/parkholmesupperclub
Cost will be £40, of which £35 goes to MSF. Please mail me with bookings asap firstname.lastname@example.org as we do get booked up quite quickly.