Yes, that’s correct, South Africa has a public holiday tomorrow – and its National Braai Day. Tomorrow we celebrate one of South Africa’s proudest traditions – the braai.
A braai is a South African barbecue – unique in its preparation and celebration – obviously, as I think we may be the only country in the world that has a public holiday in honour of a barbecue. Many in this country see the braai as a sacred ritual, performed only by those to ‘whom the tongs have been passed’. Dare anyone without the gifted touch even go near the burning shrine.
Traditionally it is the male of the species who wield the tongs, although, as with many other processes in our world today, this is changing somewhat, much to the disgust of older professional braaiers. It is very important for any visitor to get acquainted with the Rules Of The Braai in order not to upset the delicate balance of order that prevails.
Braaing, traditionally, has very specific rules of etiquette, firmly based on gender.
When a man volunteers to do the BRAAI the following chain of events are put into motion:
- The woman buys the food.
- The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.
- The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill – beer in hand.
- The woman remains outside the compulsory three meter exclusion zone where the exuberance of testosterone and other manly bonding activities can take place without the interference of the woman.
Here comes the important part:
- The man places the meat on the grill.
- The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.
- The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is looking great. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he flips the meat
- The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman
- The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.
- After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.
And most important of all:
- Everyone praises the man and thanks him for his cooking efforts.
- The man asks the woman how she enjoyed ‘her night off ‘.
When men stand around the braai – there is also a set of rules that are followed for those within the 3m testosterone zone. Watch this.
Now that there are so many South Africans living all over the planet and intermarrying with other nationalities it has become important to add to the rules – incorporating our expat brethren to maintain the purity of the tradition. These (slightly rude) rules follow:
Universal braai rules
- Men do the braaiing. But around the fire everyone’s equal, so women are more than welcome.
- If you don’t know how to braai, then you’re an Aussie, Kiwi or a Pommie. Don’t braai. It’s best to leave it to the experts.
- You can only braai with wood. So cut down a tree, raid a skip or import a container of the real stuff. If desperate, a builder’s palette will do the trick with the aid of some briquettes added later to the burning wood.
- Please note that the donkey droppings you get from British supermarkets are not briquettes or charcoal. It needs to say “charka” on the outside of the bag to constitute anything remotely acceptable.
- Anything that claims it can be lit “instantly” without proper firelighters, petrol, paper or fine firewood should be placed under the Houses of Parliament.
- A fire can never be too big and coals can never be too hot. If you are someone who thinks that it can be, you are most probably an Aussie, Kiwi or a Pommie. Refer back to rule number 2.
- If you’re not the braaier, never comment on what the braaier is doing. It’s his braai. You are allowed to talk about the weather, the Springboks, why Kevin Pietersen should not play for the Proteas and fetch cold beer. Leave religion, politics and your best friend’s mother out of it.
- A braai with more than one salad is not a braai. If you want to go for a picnic, pack a blanket and bugger off.
- Turn the meat regularly and spice it properly. If you want to leave it on the one side until it’s charcoal and then do the other side until it’s charcoal without spicing it, you’re an Aussie, Kiwi or Pommie. See rule number 2.
- If you want to have pap with your braai, prepare boerewors and make onion and tomato smoor to go with it. If you want to eat it with milk and sugar, book into the Holiday Inn in Uzbekistan and stay there.
UK braai rules
- Find proper meat. The thinly sliced bacon strips that look like Prince Charles’ ears available in UK supermarkets are just not braai meat. Go to a market or find a butcher. If your butcher doesn’t know how to cut meat properly, buy in bulk and cut it yourself. Anything thinner than the Oxford dictionary is not acceptable on the coals. If you are desperate and have to buy from a supermarket, find something with an expiry date long gone. The meat in this country is generally a month too fresh for a proper braai. Green is gold on the international braaiing stakes – just make sure you cook it properly.
- You can braai in summer and in winter. The fact that supermarkets stack away braai gear from October to May is ludicrous. Have they never heard of umbrellas and gazebos in this place?
- Create a bit of smoke at the beginning and make lots of flames to piss off the neighbours. Have some wet wood, newspaper or an old Christmas tree available just for that. If you don’t get a knock on your door from the local council within three weeks from moving in, you’re most probably an Aussie, Kiwi or Pommie. Revert back to rule number 2, as listed under the Universal Braai Rules.
- If you want to braai wors, braai boerewors. It’s dark red and made of real meat. If there is more than 10 per cent pig in it, it’s not wors: it’s a banger, and should be had with a hangover the next morning done in a pan with eggs.
You know the rules, now get out there and do it properly.
This second set of rules is courtesy of http://southafricantimes.co.uk/the-expats/community/archive/2009/08/24/how-to-braai-properly-get-the-braai-rules.aspx
I guess you can now understand why we need a national holiday to do this?
Tomorrow (24 Sept) is in fact National Heritage Day in South Africa, (well that’s what the calendar says) although there are millions out there who would disagree if they were reading this and not out there cooking meat over hot coals.
- Braai Backlash (blogs.timeslive.co.za)
- Nederburg Braai Masters (blogs.timeslive.co.za)
- Braai Time with WOSA (brandonmarc.com)
- World Cup 2010: How to cook a South African braai (telegraph.co.uk)
- A taste of Africa (independent.co.uk)
- Discover braai, South Africa’s most famous cuisine (canada.com)