Circassian Cuisine, by Amjad Jaimoukha

Circassian Cuisine
Edited by Amjad Jaimoukha
Sanjalay Press 

Hospitality has always been one of the distinguishing traits of the Caucasian highlanders. If not through good will, then the binding prescriptions of the Xabze ensured the best deal for a guest or visitor to the North Caucasus. The Circassians were known to go to extremes to ensure that a guest or wayfarer was properly regaled, and diligently ensure that he was put up in comfort. According to the saying, 'Hesch'er zheschiysch yisme, binim ya schisch mex'wzh,' 'If the guest stays for three nights, he becomes part of the family.'

In the olden days, it was the custom to host one's guests for seven days and seven nights, a number that held special religious significance. Only after expiry of this period was the purpose of the visit inquired about. The episode, "The Story of How the Narts Ravished Lady Satanay," in which Wezirmes received his guests for a week, affords an example of good etiquette.  

In the 1840s, Shora Nogmov indicated in his book History of the Adigey People, the special status that hospitality enjoyed among the Adiga. Despite the wretchedness of those times, engendered by political upheavals and war, this custom had experienced no degradation in the least. All Circassians, rich and poor, were equal in holding this institution in the greatest esteem. The old saying, still current today, "The host is his guest's servant" (bisimir hesch'em yi 'wexwthebzasch'esch) is indicative of the reverence in which visitors were held. The host, qweynaq or konak, was not only responsible for the culinary needs of his guest, also called konak, but was also his protector and guide. Any injury or offense inflicted on the guest was considered as directed towards the host or one of his family members - to be avenged in the extreme according to the strict laws of blood-revenge. In addition, the host made sure that his guest reached his next destination safe and sound until he was delivered to the next konak. Only then was the host relieved of his onerous duties.

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