AS MY WIFE AND I sat in the restaurant during a recent trip abroad, our waiter approached with our order. As he laid our plates on the table, he announced with great pride that it was the national dish of his country.
It was simple, yet very delicious.
At that point, I decided to get back to the question that I had recently devoted much thought to – a question that remained unanswered: What is the main dish that our country can pride itself on, draw attention to and consequently use to promote Georgian cuisine?
Immediately upon my return, I posed this question to my friends and acquaintances, while simultaneously taking a closer look at the Georgian feast (supra), our nation’s eating habits, and regional peculiarities. Eventually, we all agreed that khachapuri was destined to become the country’s signature dish since it acts as an integrator of Georgian cuisine as a whole. This is largely because this often decadent cheese-filled bread is made in all parts of Georgia and is not a dish specific to one particular region.
During this process, I came up with simple questions such as: Where? When? How? Who? And when I failed to get answers to these simple questions, I realized that it was time to delve deeper into the matter.
Some answers I found myself, others found me and gradually we – a team of 14 people –set out to explore the types and origin of khachapuri. In the process of our exploration, which is still ongoing, we could not hide our astonishment as we came upon 53 different types of cheese-filled bread. Before that, we could not name more than ten!
Our exploration of the types of cheese-filled bread led to many simple, as well as philosophical questions. For example: what is the main ingredient in khachapuri – dough or cheese? Or was it curds and bread?
It’s the filling.
The filling for khachapuri is prepared differently in every region of the country. In addition, there is also the dough-preparing technique and the quality of the wheat. The taste of khachapuri is different based on the regions of Georgia because the technique of preparing each type is also unique. The writer, historian, botanist, gastronaut, cheesemaker and the other professionals involved in our study arrived at the conclusion that khachapuri was born in Georgia and is indeed a Georgian dish. This is not simply the opinion of people obsessed with national pride, this is a verified answer based on research and concrete sources.
Based on these sources, the history, taste and preparation technique of khachapuri varies from region to region. Nevertheless, each type of khachapuri has a common character, friendship and preparation ritual.
You probably know people that cannot hide their amazement when they taste homemade khachapuri. Why can’t khachapuri also be as tasty in the eateries, as it is when it’s plucked straight from the oven at home? The likely answer is that the eateries do not prepare khachapuri with as much love, passion and diligence, as the ones that make it in the home.
Every corner of Georgia has its own khachapuri with its own unique composition, attitude, rules and recipes. Observing the various fillings that Georgians use, suggests that our predecessors have wrapped almost everything in dough, and the fact that the dough type with curd and cheese filling prevails, is indicative of how Georgians feel about this particular diary product. Cheese has a very rich history and the tale of preparing this ‘good-hearted’ diary product – as they refer to cheese in some local dialects – dates back to ancient times.
Everything needs to be renewed and upgraded, provided that it is done with care and protection for the old. What I am trying to say is that, I believe that in the 21st century we should continue experimenting with various recipes of khachapuri. But before doing so, we must take proper care of khachapuri’s potential based on its history.
Just imagine that chefs from all over the world come to Georgia, look for the recipes for preparing khachapuri, observe how Georgian housewives make khachapuri, taste it and then take this experience with them and start making khachapuri in their own countries. This research will serve as a roadmap and inspiration for local and international businesses. These so-called khachapuri eateries will turn into far more classy and promising businesses. Many business entities will have an opportunity to launch new types of khachapuri that are yet unknown to the majority of people and thus attract customers.
We are all proud when the world applauds and admires the Sukhishvili National Ballet.It would not be an exaggerated comparison to predict the same future for khachapuri, which certainly has the magical power to win the hearts of gourmets the world over.
Khachapuri must become the flag-bearer for Georgian cuisine and in the process, promote the popularization of other prominent Georgian dishes.
You are probably wondering why we chose khachapuri and not another Georgian dish?
The answer is because khachapuri is so different in every region, and this underscores the authenticity and culture of Georgian gastronomy. Other national dishes in Georgia are mostly specific to certain corners of the country, while khachapuri unifies the Georgian feast and embodies the country’s national cuisine as a whole.
The culinary world is in search of new authentic tastes. One could even say that the culinary world is in a crisis in terms of discovering new dishes. Therefore, we should take advantage of this opportunity to introduce the main dish of our national cuisine to the world. Even though there are Georgian restaurants in many countries of the world where khachapuri enjoys popularity, it is still not enough. More fundamental work needs to be done. We must relay precise information regarding khachapuri to the gastronomic world, let them taste it and appreciate its potential.
The introduction of khachapuri on the world market will prompt the popularization of the main ingredients of khachapuri (flour and cheese) since these ingredients determine its unique character and taste. We need to support the development and export of local products, where these ingredients will be used for making khachapuri.
The role of the state in this endeavor is crucial. As such, the government needs to support the popularization of khachapuri by presenting it in various gastronomic forums and festivals. Khachapuri will take care of the rest itself, since it has a huge potential to conquer the world.