Food and family are two of the most important elements in Georgian culture, and nothing brings these together quite like supra.
What is Supra?
The word means “tablecloth” and refers to large spontaneously-coordinated gatherings of friends, neighbors, and family that can last well into the next day. Spontaneously-coordinated because while these festivities are often thrown spur of the moment for anything worthy of celebration, there is a ritual that is followed.
Georgian families are large and socializing together is a value they hold dear. Most have family recipes that are passed down through the generations, the classic “Grandma’s Secret Recipe.”
Supra is generally an hours-long feast with an endless conveyor belt of dishes served. Food is replenished so there is a constant supply to graze over. Georgian hospitality is famous, and supra is the embodiment of this. A family is sharing not only their home, but their food, their wine, their time, and their conversation.
The tamada is the toastmaster of the supra. He/She doesn’t necessarily have to be the host but is someone chosen for his/her energized, jovial, and social nature. It is the job of the tamada to lead the toasts and the conversation.
A toast will always start by giving thanks to Georgia for her land and for providing the food on the table. Other toasts will follow about the guests, God, saints, ancestors, or loved ones who have passed away.
Nobody other than the tamada can initiate a toast, and talking during a toast is frowned upon. But others can respond afterward with words of their own. The toasts follow in a counter-clockwise direction with everyone able to talk if they wish. At the close, the tamada will proclaim “Bolo mde!” which translates to “Until the end!” Guests are then encouraged to drain their glasses.
Traditionally, salads will be laid out on the table first, even before the guests arrive. These salads will be refilled as the meal progresses. Also on the table are small plates of cheeses, tomatoes, radishes, and bread.
Following this are various small hot dishes, khachapuri, and then meat & vegetable dishes. Tkemali (unripe plum sauce) is a staple on the table and used for dipping just about anything. Dessert will usually be a bit simpler but could be a cake or pelamushi (like a grape mousse).
Wine is a source of pride in Georgia and is plentiful at a supra. It is customary to keep everyone’s glass at least half full during the entire meal.
In between the toasts is a joyous atmosphere of live music and singing. This is central to the supra. Songs will be about Georgia, God, peace, family, long life, etc. Everyone at the table joins in with some even playing instruments. The merriment generally gets louder and more animated as more wine is consumed.
Should you ever be invited to a supra, you should always accept. Georgians love to host and they see your presence as good luck. Allow elders to be served first, do your best to try all the dishes, and finish everything on your plate. Pace yourself though! You will definitely be offered seconds and thirds.
You should also bring a small gift whenever you’re invited to someone’s home. Flowers or chocolate will do. But don’t give an even number of flowers because that’s reserved for funerals.
When you’re eating, don’t put your elbows on the table. Also, the fork should always go in your left hand and knife in your right.