The Global Chef: Georgian culinary arts can soothe and unite | Food







Nancy Krcek Allen


In Putin’s and Russia’s quest to be a superpower, another of their longtime targets is the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Since Georgia gained its independence in 1991, Putin has continued to exert pressure by using or threatening military force, aiding rebel groups, anti-Western/NATO propaganda, economic measures, disinformation operations, cyber-attacks and by creating separatist regimes as leverage against the country.

Through it all, Georgians have persevered. Perhaps it is in large part because of its food and wine toasting ritual, the supra. Georgians believe in the power of their culinary arts to soothe and unite people.

Cuisine is central to the life and history of all Georgians. Sandwiched by Russia, Armenia, Turkey, Dagestan, and Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Georgia was in the center of the ancient East-West silk and spice trade routes, her primary link to the known world.

Georgia has 11 common languages (Georgian, Russian, Armenian, Abkhaz, Azerbaijani, Greek, Ossetian, Svan, Mingrelian, Laz and Turkish), which reflects the diversity of her culture and food. Though many invaders (Persians, Ottomans, and Mongol) and traders (Indian) have left their influences on Georgian cuisine, its true excellence arises from the fertile Georgian soil, natural riches and abundant culinary ingredients. Citrus, pomegranates, plums, apricots, blackberries, walnuts, figs, corn, wheat, beans, herbs, spices, eggplant, tomatoes, grapes and more thrive there.

Georgian cooking is centuries old. This uncomplicated cuisine is a cross between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, which grew out of the ancient migrations along the Silk Road and from rural countryside farm cooking. The rich natural flavors of her fresh food and seasonings need little embellishment. Matsoni (buffalo milk yogurt), cow, goat and sheep cheeses, fresh and pungent herb salads, grilled meat (basturma) and kebabs (shasklik), sturgeon in walnut sauce, flattened pan-grilled chicken tabaka and stuffed vegetable tolmas (dolmas) are favorites. Fresh sauces made with tart wild plums, walnuts, apricots, cilantro or tomatoes and flavored with pomegranate juice, honey, herbs or chilies are popular. There are bean salads with walnuts or plums, clay oven breads, corn polenta, and fresh, succulent pkhalis (walnut-vegetable patés), characteristic of a cuisine bursting with tradition,

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