Supras are one of the many challenges facing TLG volunteers, especially if one is placed in a village. As most of you know, a supra is a huge feast in celebration of something, led by a tamada (toastmaster) in which everyone eats their weight in food and toasts everyone and everything with never-ending wine and chacha.
Here in Sagarejo I’ve been to multiple supras (and many a regular lunch that somehow turned into a supra). Wedding supras, birthday supras, harvest supras….they all follow some basic supra rules, some which can be hard to swallow for those new to Georgia (swallow! Like drinking wine! It’s a pun!). In fact, only about twenty minutes ago I was invited to yet another supra, my second of the week. With my vast experience (read: about eight supras and a host father that is a tamada) I’m here to give you some survival tips for your supra-ing.
Plan your eating
Georgian food is delicious, but it sure is filling. At a supra everyone will want to make sure you try everything and eat an inhuman amount of food. To avoid becoming sick, plan your attack. No matter how delicious the food is, take small portions and eat slowly! I often put some food on my plate but don’t eat at all until someone looks at me (if they didn’t see it, didn’t happen! Protesting you already ate some of the khatchapuri doesn’t always work!). Keeping food on your plate also stops someone from heaping another helping on it (sometimes). Notice the not-so-heavy food so when someone offers you a second piece of cake or fifth khinkali you can say “No thanks, instead I want _______”. This keeps them from feeling you aren’t eating! Take note of where the vegetables are (there is almost always fresh tomato and cucumber) so when you are full to bursting you can nibble on a slice of cucumber for a while. It’s ok to refuse food, just make sure they know it’s delicious and you appreciate their hospitality!
Keep your glass filled
It can be hard to navigate the drinking culture in Georgia – people will continually top off your glass (because it is often considered rude to toast without new wine/beer/chacha) so even if it’s not empty, more will be poured in until you aren’t even sure how much you have drank! To keep from over-drinking, try to fill your glass with juice or soda (or water, if it actually exists at your supra!) every now and then before your neighbors can generously fill it with wine. I try not to drain my glass at any toast because then they expect me to “bolomde” (finish it) every time! If you really don’t want to drink anymore, remind them you have school/travel plans/important things to do the next day or ask for an alternative beverage. Remember, you CAN say no, even if they look disappointed.
Prepare a short toast
I’m often asked to think of the next toast and I always end up drawing a blank, even if I had thought of something earlier! Think of something simple you can say in Georgian. I’ve used “to friends in America and Georgia!” I’ve also found that if I say it in English too, they think it’s funny. At least they appreciate the toasting effort!
If there is dancing and someone invites you up, do it! Yes, you might look like a fool, but not only is it good exercise and a lot of fun, but it gives you an excuse not to eat for five minutes! One of the ways I’ve bonded with my host family and neighbors is through dancing. My host mom is teaching me Georgian dance moves and my host brother and I practice our Michael Jackson moves around the living room!
This is a good tip for your life in Georgia in general, but definitely at a supra, where the long toasts in a language you don’t know start to feel tedious. Chill. You can handle a few hours of nodding, smiling and staring into space a lot. Play a game of trying to figure out everyone’s name from the conversation. Attempt to speak to whoever is next to you in Georgian. Text a friend if you are really going stir crazy. Pay enough attention to what’s happening around that you don’t accidentally toast with the wrong gender (as in, women with a men’s toast) or accept the drinking horn (unless you can handle it!).
May this guide help you in all of your supras! Gaumarjos!