My First Supra

My neighbours kindly invited me to the feast (“supra” in Georgian), knocking on my door around 5:30.  I joined the men sitting outside smoking and talking—mostly about football, from the few words I picked up.  From inside the house I could hear the women talking loudly to each other as they prepared the table; delicious cooking smells wafted from the door.  The table was laden with all kinds of food: bowls of boiled mutton, spicy mutton stew, roast chicken, plates of grilled eggplant some some sort of nut paste, potato salad, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, and large piles of excellent bread.  All together there were thirteen people: Paata and his family, his sister, his wife’s parents, my landlady and her sister, and two other friends.  In this picture Paata’s daughter is breaking the wishbone with Paata’s sister (whose birthday it was).  The second picture is of her with Teona, who I think is Paata’s daughter.  The men sat at one end of the table—Paata at the head of the table, I to his left, and Levan, a family friend, to his right.  Two boys sat to my left, and the rest of the women sat on the other side and at the other end of the table.  Paata was also toast-master: I learned that at Georgian supras toasts are an integral part of the evening, and periodically he would fill our three glasses (the women didn’t seem to drink), make a toast which Levan would haltingly translate for me, and then we’d drink.  One has to down the whole glass, a large shot-glass, after each toast, and it’s not done to sip during the intervals between toasts.  The toasts were of every conceivable kind: to new friends, to Paata’s sister’s birthday, to our ancestors, to our countries, to a friend who was in prison, to our families, to beautiful Georgian women…After the first hour, steeped in a pleasant wine-induced mellowness, I started to lose track of the toasts.  After the second hour my eyes had trouble focusing, and I had been encouraged to start making toasts myself.  After the third hour, by now steeped in an alcoholic stupor, I had bonded with Paata and Levan in brotherly comradship.  “To us, and our friendship!” cried Paata, and the three of us clinked glasses and drank.  This third picture, from the left: Paata’s wife, who, together with her mother, did all the cooking; Khatia, my landlady, and her sister.  Khatia speaks the best English of all those who were gathered, so occasionally she helped translating the more intricate toasts that Levan’s English couldn’t handle.  On the right, me with the two daughters.  I think they both live in the same group of apartments, and I think the one on the right, Teona, is Paata’s daughter; but I’m not sure exactly who the other girl is.  Both nice girls though, each with a smattering of English.  Here I am bonding with Paata.  By this time I was quite thoroughly soused; I think I managed to maintain a facade of tolerably normal behaviour, but by the end of the evening I was ready to collapse into bed.  Khatia accompanied me to my door, made sure I had closed it, after which I did collapse.  I spent most of today recouperating.  So it was a good evening, all around; all the enthusiastic comments about Georgian hospitality I’d read before coming here were all true.  The whole family was extremely warm and open and welcoming.  Wonderful people.

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