Saturday, October 22, 2011

Georgia: The 40th Day, Part 1: Two Days Before

Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia


The Georgian Christian Orthodox Church (like the Ethiopian Christian Orthodox Church) marks important interval days after a loved one dies: 3rd day, 7th day, 40th day, one year.

This weekend marked the 40th day after the death of my hostess' sister-in-law, Jejuna.


On Wednesday night, I accompanied Nely and her son and daughter-in-law to a market to lay in stocks for the 40th-day meal that would take place in Kardanakhi. Nely, Ketino (co-grandmother to shared granddaughter), relatives, and some neighbors would make everything.

Thursday night, Nely and Ketino stayed up so very late preparing food.


As with the 7th day feast, there are certain things that are served at the 40-day feast. Traditions vary with the region ... nay, even the village.

They deconstructed fish.

Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia


Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia
They deconstructed chicken ...


And reconstructed chicken: 

Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia
Thursday evening, just as Ketino had partially pulled apart (to kind of flatten them) the chickens for oven-roasting, an urgent call rang from the village. It was a neighbor or relative reminding Nely about the "tabla," the tradition (local to Kardanakhi) to set aside a petite version of the entire feast to give to an individual in the village, along with certain specific gifts, such as a comb, a mirror, some china, utensils, cups, and a nightgown. It was essential that the chicken in the "tabla" be boiled, not roasted.

This is when Nely turned to me and said, "Remember when I told you that not all Georgian traditions are good ones? This tabla business is an example."

I watched while Ketino reconstructed the partially-flattened chicken into an unflattened chicken, with string, to be tossed into a pot of water instead of into the oven. (Don't tell anyone.)

 They cooked livers and prepped mushrooms.

Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia
Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia



 








Ketino, an acclaimed cook (though Nely is not so shabby herself), made 15 khachapuri. No matter how tired she was, Ketino gave the same careful attention to each. She patted out the dough, then broke a tennis-ball size round of cheese onto the center, then delicately gathered up the edges to make a pouch, then oh-so-carefully patted it out into a flat again, before popping it into the oven. 

Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia
Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia
Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia
Preparing funeral feast, Rustavi, Georgia
One whopping tennis-ball size amount of cheese into each khachapuri
Khachapuri just out of the oven, dotted with butter


When I arose at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, Ketino was finishing the last of the khachapuri. Shortly after, she caught a brief nap before getting up to go to work in Tbilisi.

On the Rustavi front, all was ready for transport to Kardanakhi Friday evening.

In Kardanakhi, there was a sheep on the farm, awaiting slaughter on Saturday morning. While there, it would be given salt, blessed by a clergyman, to ingest before sacrifice. (At the 7-day feast, a calf was slaughtered.)

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