A flea market cookbook sparks a restaurant’s revival


Cookbooks might not be able to change the world, but they definitely can have a tremendous impact locally. A story on Atlas Obscura brilliantly demonstrates this possibility – the owners of a failing restaurant in Tbilisi, Georgia stumble on a tattered old cookbook at a flea market, which proves to contain a winning formula for reinvigorating their establishment into a smashing success. 

The cookbook, Georgian Cuisine and Tried Housekeeping Notes, isn’t just another old book, it was written by a pioneering member of the Georgian royal family in the 19th century who is now being recognized as one of the first – and most vocal – advocates for women’s rights. In the late 1800s, Princess Barbare Jorjadze wrote about the damning expectations placed on women: “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.” 

The book that caught the eye of the restaurant’s dispirited owners contained an impressive number of recipes (close to 900), that the princess collected in her travels throughout Georgia. The recipes capture the spirit of Georgia’s cuisine and demonstrate its evolution over the centuries. Unusually for the time, the cookbook contained a number of foreign dishes, documenting the outside influences of other countries that would eventually form the Soviet Union, plus European and Middle Eastern countries. 

In this eclectic book, the restaurant’s owners found a winning formula to turn around their eatery, which is now recognized as one of the best in the area. They rotate the recipes depending on the season, and rotate through chefs to continually bring new ideas and interpretations to these classic dishes.

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  • wester  on  June 16, 2018

    Sorry to nitpick, but in the 19th century there was no such thing as a Soviet Union. Do you mean Russia?

  • gamulholland  on  June 16, 2018

    wester—They mention the countries that would EVENTUALLY form the Soviet Union, so it actually is correct. Not just Georgia, but also cuisine of what would some day be the nations of the USSR…plus European and Middle Eastern countries. 🙂

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