Monday, October 11, 2010

Spirits for spirits

Instead of a simple Saturday lunch of bread, cheese and yesterdays leftovers, the other day I enjoyed a supra-style feast. After a short Frogger -style car ride to the village (picture the car weaving in and around cows and ducks for ten minutes) we arrived at the lovely home of Melissa’s host cousin Lela.

As soon as we opened the car door, we were greeted by Melissa’s little cousins: the adorable eight-year-old Tica and her blonde and blue eyed, ten-year-old sister Mari (both sported cute, new haircuts). We were instantly brought upstairs to sit on a couch while three other female family members laid a feast out before our eyes. Of course, since Melissa and I were guests, we could not help at all (but Melissa did find time to accidentally break poor little Tica’s sparkly, new barrette).

Our Saturday supra feast! (And this is only half the food...)

This supra was special because it was in honor of two family members who had died within the year, and all efforts were made to memorialize them. The Georgian Orthodox religion is very spiritual, and m many believe that a special feast like this one will attract the souls of these deceased members to come to the table. Because of this, only the favorite foods of the two family members were made for the meal and special candles were placed in numerous dishes. Finally, a bowl of scented, wooden ashes (simulating the ashes of the two family members) was placed on the floor.

While a meal like this sounds like it would be somber, the mood was very light-hearted. All the food was divine (though I mostly ate salad; it’s such a treat when it’s placed on the table) and all the wine was made that week by the family themselves! Melissa’s host-dad Koka was the tamada (toastmaster) and he made various toasts in memory of the two family members and also of lovely things like world peace and good health to all fourteen of us supra guests.

After several toasts (meaning various glasses of wine) Koka asked Melissa and I to lead a toast. We both first looked at each other a bit dumb-founded and then Melissa proudly said, “To pomodori, ketri da puri!” (To tomatoes, cucumbers and bread!) Maybe it’s because Georgians are nice people, but they all seemed to really love Melissa’s toast and cheered to it very enthusiastically.

Our spiritual lunch was filled with various blunders on both our parts. Melissa incessantly tried to toast with her left hand (you can only toast with your right) and I could not seem to keep my changali (fork) in my hand. I repeatedly dropped it on the floor. Lela’s father told me that in Georgian tradition, every time a fork is dropped on the floor that means another guest will come to the meal. So not only were the two souls of the family members coming, but also an entire other village because I dropped my fork 80 times.

Even worse, after one of the occasions where I dropped my fork, Lela stood up to get me a new one and accidentally knocked over the bowl of ashes. I mean, wow hello that cannot be a good omen. It was totally a throwback to Ben Stiller breaking the ashes vase in ‘Meet the Parents’. (No one seemed too offended though and my apology only resulted in me being given extra lemon cake).

Interestingly, there were several things that were discussed at the meal that I can’t imagine would ever be discussed over a huge family dinner in the United States. Koka began a discussion asking for advice on how he and his wife can better manage their budget. Both Melissa and I were surprised to hear financial matters like this being chatted about at the table. Furthermore, Lela told a story about how Levani (her 28-year-old brother) asked Koko (Melissa’s little host brother) to put in a good word for him to Melissa. Both Levani , Koko and Melissa were sitting right at the table though so I couldn’t help but find the whole situation a bit awkward. Lela seemed to sense my hesitation and replied, “Georgians keep no secrets from each other, everybody knows everything”. Well, I think it was Mark Twain who said, ‘the fewer secrets we keep, the less we need to remember’.

(from left) Nana (Melissa's host mom), Aunt Nino, Melissa and Koka (Melissa's host dad) sampling some homemade wine
 After we’d eaten and drank more than a bit of homemade wine, Melissa and I thought it would be a good idea to play ‘monkey in the middle’ with Koko, Mari and Tica.

Tip: after drinking wine, you should not play games with children that involve running around and throwing balls.

The whole afternoon was really quite wonderful though. It was so nice to meet more of Melissa’s host family; everyone seemed so happy and grateful that we are teaching English here in Georgia (especially Levani). When we piled into the car to go home, Lela’s mom even made sure that we got two huge doggy bags. One was filled with khachapuri and various cakes and the other was filled with fruit from the family’s backyard. Finally, a huge container of wine was brought to the car. (I’m talking like, the same size containers of the Gatorade dispensers at the Superbowl).

Surely, I am going to have to hardcore amp-up my running routine here in Samtredia. A few miles a day is just not going to cut it when all this delicious, godly food and 30 gallons of wine are placed in front me.

I have a new motto, ‘the more I run: the more cheese I can eat’.


  1. Fork dropping is not Georian tradition, it's kind of superstition coming from old times.

    To say briefly, Georgian culture is mixed up by many other cultures from various countries; so one cannot explain surely, the origin of such traditions; tracking is very difficult :)

    Good luck! :**

  2. Agree with litterator about dropping forks. as far as i know, it's Russian superstition. but never mind, it's funny one :) and sometimes true :D

    as for me, i don't like such kind of tables, "suphra"'s for dead people. but you described it so lightly and humorously, my view renewed toward this "event". (pardon my English, if anything is unclear) :)

  3. love your new motto :] miss you! keep living it up!!