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THE FOOD WE ATE. 4. Braai. [5min read].

All countries love to braai – OK, to barbeque, with deference to those from elsewhere.

All nationals think they do it best.  You live in five different countries and visit several others, and you know it.  It’s in our DNA since cavemen days.  It’s a human trait  – like ingenuity and humour and mateship!  It intrigues me how nations almost claim these characteristics as their own; like they have a monopoly on these qualities which are so common to humankind when nationalism, bigotry and hatred do not get in the way of their expression.

Again I digress. Apologies to my kids, my worst critics!

Besides the end-product, part of the pleasure is the process towards that first mouthful of carnivorous delight with not too much tomato sauce or mustard on the boerewors [farmer’s sausage] sandwich roll. Some go for lamb chops.  Others for beef steaks.  Most go for everything. Fat-marbled meat is best.  The more fat the better! At one stage this was attributed as the main reason why Afrikaners had the highest heart attack rate in the world.

The marinades used are often closely guarded family hand-me-downs.  I was basic – salt and pepper, and later garlic salt and lemon pepper.  The meat had to have a kiss of brown when done with a hint or more of pink on the inside.  The carnivores still like drops of blood and some residual twitching of the muscle fibres at the end!

Of course, with so much sea around Cape Town, a variety of sea-food is available for those with expanded tastes.  Only one thing could knock prawns off the top of the list, and that would be a marinaded, fresh whole snoek [barracuda].  It’s interesting how Kiwis regard this much-enjoyed South African favourite as cat food.  “But it’s got worms in it”!  Maybe it’s the parasite that adds to the flavour!

Best snoek is in the months with an “R” in it.  It’s the months when the well-fed snoek had good body fat on them when more plentiful food was available to them. No, the “R” month was not just old wives’ tales!

No doubt there will always be a debate about the best sausage.  How thick? How much fat?  Spicy enough?  Supermarket wors may be OK for a quickie, but not for a special birthday or wedding anniversary.  Know anyone passing the Grabouw butchery seventy kilometres away from the City?

Fires bring out our primeval instincts and not just any wood or briquets will do. What wood to use?  Almost as critical as the origin of the wors is the use of oak vs vine cuttings vs ysterhout [iron wood].  A softer wood for kindling, rooikrants wattle – thanks to my Aussie mates – and the flames will be fired up. No oil please. I use a single piece of fire starter to get the process underway, and there will be no oily aftertaste.  I hate the fiddle with paper, especially on a windy day.  There are other lighting devices like the little device the size of a Bic lighter which has a pointed flame like a metal-cutting Oxy Acetylene torch. The purist types use flint stones!

Oak was my favoured wood.  Like ti-tree wood or vine cuttings, they add a distinctive flavour to a braai. Cape Town is oak city. Early settlers were paid to plant these trees.  Many municipal picnic spots have oak cut-offs, and a trip or two during spring ensured enough wood to last the summer months.  [The tut-tutting is Zonjia’s!]

So, coals are ready.  Add the meats and sausage to the grill and await the tempting smells  emitted when the sizzle starts.  Douse any flames as needed.

Foil-wrapped potatoes, patat/kumara/sweet potato[yup, I’m inclusive!] sweet corn on the coals and some of the basics are done.  A pan with onions braised slightly or a tomato bredie [salsa] cooking on a few side coals in a driepoot [three-legged] pot and that would provide a few more essential extras.


Liquid libations – to each his own.  During the act of braaing, it is a sin not to have something in hand.  Long ago, the late  Ebrahim Akoojee introduced me to Coca-Cola sundowners in Eastern Transvaal – still a favourite of mine with a slice or two of lemon and ice cubes.  Again, other liquid adornments depend on the day!

Stuiwe pap. [Stiff maize meal] is popular with many.  Should be cooked not too dry and then allow the tomato bredie to soak into the mound surrounded by a ring of boerewors.

Some may do the same with a mound of mashed potato.

………………….and many more, even a salad or two.  Some tables groaned with food. Many would agree that it’s a Cape Town tradition!

So, does the vegan miss a good braai.  You bet he does, especially when good friends and family are around!!


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