In the olden days, Georgia was known for its huge Caucasus Mountain ranges that stretched from the south of the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and beyond. It is a land where culture, tradition, and cuisine meet in perfect harmony. Georgian cooking has not lost its popularity even in the 21st century. This is largely due to its versatility and the fact that Georgian cuisine has evolved with time.
As far as history is concerned, Georgian cuisine traces its origins to the sixth century when the ruling elite started learning how to cook from European cooks and learned their ways of preparing and seasoning the dishes. In the early sixteenth century, an Italian scholar by the name of Marco Polo introduced Georgia as a part of his caravan trade. He described it as “the greatest and most beautiful city on the earth”. Polo’s account of Georgian cookery was so accurate that not only was Georgia in his cross-hairs, but also the whole of Central Asia because of its cuisine which he dubbed as “ravioli”. This was the first indication of the immense influence of Eastern European cuisines on Georgian food.
However, this was just the beginning. Georgian cooking had undergone a variety of changes along the way, particularly due to additions and changes of the local soils and climate. At that time, Georgia’s fertile lands were used by neighbors in trading copper coins and iron implements. Consequently, the local foods and ingredients were gradually changed and enriched for the purpose of trading.
Georgian cuisine is characterized by sweet dishes mixed with meat and fish. Meat is used both for flavoring and for the main ingredients. Georgian cookery is marked by a distinct use of local fruits and vegetables. In addition, a large percentage of Georgian dishes is made of fish as the main ingredient.
Fish is so popular that it is a matter of common practice to eat fish on St. Valentine’s Day. Moreover, dishes are generally prepared with white or cream sauces in an effort to enhance the palatability of the food. Fish is one of the most widely popular foods in Georgian cuisine. Grilled fish is a favorite. It is usually served with salty bread.
Besides the traditional favorites, Georgian cooking also includes numerous dishes that are not so popular among moderns, such as “Tartini”, “stews” and “curries”. Although these dishes did not gain popularity at that time, they do now. They were popular enough that when the famous traveler and author Sir Walter Scott visited Georgia in his trip through Georgia in the 1800s, he included many recipes from his own experience. Thus, in turn, these dishes became very familiar to the Georgian population.
Fish was also so popular that even after the advent of refrigeration, Georgian dishes were prepared by boiling or roasting the fish. The British chef Hilton Anderson wrote that the “dishes of Georgia are simply enthralling… Everything is done with such skill and elegance that the guests are attracted with wonder.” Such an accolade goes to a tradition that dates back many centuries. It is a sign of the resilience and complexity of Georgian cookery, which is perhaps representative of the complexity and sophistication of Georgian life itself.
If you have never experienced genuine Georgian food, you should make it a point to do so. It is an amazing culinary treat that will simply transform your perception of food and your relationship with food. A visit to the country of Georgia is the perfect opportunity to experience true culinary excellence. So don’t miss out on this opportunity. You’ll fall in love with Georgia food before you know it!