Who would ever guess that a classic Georgian cookbook is a vehicle through which a feminist transmitted her manifesto? As ironic as her choice of media may be, it may nevertheless have been a true stroke of genius.
Barbare Jorjadze, a Georgian princess, published her first cookbook Georgian Cuisine and Tried Housekeeping Notes, which was read by thousands of women all across this former Russian satellite state. Even today, her cookbook remains a prized possession of many households for its work in preserving Georgian tradition and encouraging thought and invention within the kitchen.
Georgian Cuisine and Tried Housekeeping Notes
In fact, Lasha Bakradze, the director of the Georgian Literature Museum, told NPR that she is sure that Jorjadze’s cookbook was a patriotic endeavor.
“Cookery and household management books were then fashionable in England, and the trend was picked up in Russia. Jorjadze must have believed that Georgia, just as any self-respecting nation, should have its own guidebook on cooking and running the household.”
The household that Jorjadze was giving advice on how to run was, of course, a 19th-century one. As it was in vogue at the time, the cookbook contains tips on dining etiquette, housekeeping how-tos, and cleaning tricks. Researchers believe that her volume was influenced by the two best-sellers of the day: Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management and Elena Molokhovets’ Gift to Young Housewives.
The Feminist Writer
Outside of her cookbook, however, Jorjadze used both prose and verse to engage in feminist efforts and call for respect and equality for women.
One of her most famous texts, that is now regarded by gender historians as Georgia’s first feminist manifesto, is filled with sophisms on gender equality. Among the many things she ponders is the continued enforcement of the gender norm that women are the subservient sex.
As a result, she continually and defiantly illuminated the second class status of women in order to encourage change:
“From a very young age, we are told, ‘Since God made you a woman, you must sit silently, look at nobody, go nowhere, shut your ears and your eyes, and just sit there. Education and learning of languages is none of your concern.’… Now you tell me, if this creature, kept uneducated and confined, ends up being less than perfect, who is to blame?”
The Georgian Gastronomic Renaissance
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While much of her more matronly advice has fallen by the wayside to gather dust in old libraries, scholars and chefs alike have chosen to give her recipes new life and vibrancy. Although many of the more involved recipes have yet to be resurrected, the simpler dishes have never been forgotten.
One such dish that has weathered two centuries, two world wars, and two empires (Tsarist and Soviet) is satsivi. This dish is a turkey in a walnut puree-thickened gravy and is still a traditional holiday dish made in much the same way that Jorjadze recorded its preparation in 1874.
“Put half a pound of crushed walnuts in the stock. Add two diced onions and two cloves of finely chopped garlic, coriander and other herbs, and bring to boil.”
Though many traditional dishes continue to be prepared in the same fashion that they have been for centuries, innovation in the Georgian kitchen is beginning to gain steam. Georgia is having what some would call a gastronomic renaissance.
Now, beyond traditional staples and the homogenizing influence of the Soviet Union, chefs are beginning to rekindle historical recipes with all the gusto that rediscovery can inspire.
Curious to try out a Georgian recipe for yourself? Start with some of the delicious basics and make khachapuri.