Are you the braai master?
Thursday 24 September is not only National Heritage Day, which is special in itself, but also National Braai Day, which celebrates an ingrained part of South African culture. The braai is a unique South African pastime and National Braai Day is held under the banner of Braai4Heritage and the patronage of Desmond Tutu. Other ambassadors include Riaan Cruywagen, Gareth Cliff and Jo-Ann Strauss.
But what makes a braai (barbecue) so special? In my opinion it is because there is no better way to while away a few hours (or an entire day) than sitting around the braai spending quality time with good friends and family …Within my circle of friends the braai and the activities that surround it have become somewhat of a tradition and I have no doubt that families and friends in gardens all around South Africa have their own traditions …
Each time we gather for a braai, the rules are simple – Bring whatever meat (and in some cases veggies) and drinks you want to consume and the rest will be taken care of – generally by myself and a good friend, as we haven’t quite gotten away from the old traditions of men tending to the meat on the fire while the women prepare the salads in the kitchen. It may seem like a sexist tradition but we like it this way – and we do know how to make a great salad.
Our braai’s tend to be a whole day affair with the fire being started at around midday and carefully tended to for the next few hours so as to ensure the perfect cooking temperature. I have on many occasions tried to ascertain when it is the optimal braai temperature but have never quite got the knack – apparently it is ready when you are able to hold your hand above the heat for approximately 10 seconds without the heat searing your hand. However, I’d rather leave this to the boys as they get a kick out of standing around the fire, talking about the latest sports results and generally enjoying each other’s company.
Its traditional to serve a couple of salads to accompany the meat and here is where I do my part. I really enjoy the time spent in the kitchen while making salads, it is a fantastic opportunity to catch up with friends and learn the latest gossip. Along with our standard practices the boys understand that not only is it important for them to be the braai masters, but they also need to play bartender for the day and ensure the girls are comfortable and content and always have their wine glasses topped up.
The day is always entertaining with jokes and stories being shared and the boys sharing the job of braai master. It is an honour to be the one with the tongs and have the chance to turn the meat while cooking it to perfection and apparantly you happily endure the smoke and heat, if you are given this honour.
If you don’t feel up to hosting the braai and would like someone else to braai for you, why not contact the Haartenberg Estate and book your place at their table on Thursday 24 September 2009. For R130 a person you can enjoy a bottle of wine, cocktail wors, salads, cheeses and preserves, Mediterranean chicken, boerewors, coffee, koeksisters and more. (Contact Francel du Plessis for more information on +27 (0)21 865 2541).
Come rain or shine National Braai Day should be spent taking part in this South African tradition, call your friends and family and celebrate this day. The braai is an opportunity to unite people from all backgrounds and is a tangible activity that can be enjoyed by everyone.