22 September 2011 by Robyn Campbell

Don’t touch me on my braai

The 24th of September is national Heritage Day in South Africa. It’s also national Braai Day, better known as Braai for Heritage Day, giving South African’s 2 reasons to love this public holiday (except this year, it falls on a weekend - boo-hoo).

I recently attended a food symposium with international speakers where a highly qualified academic planned to present a paper on chop-picnics in rural Australia. She began her paper with the claim that ‘Barbequing is our heritage. It is a way of cooking unique to Australia…’

Needless to say the poor woman never got to read the rest of her carefully crafted essay because she was harangued for the remainder of her session by an Argentine, a Saffa (South African), and a Texan in the audience.

I wasn’t the Saffa protesting the ownership of the Stone Age art of carbonising meat. But I wanted to be. I just wasn’t quick enough out of my seat. Why, as soon as the Prof said ‘Barbequing is Australian’, did my hackles rise and my mind shout, ‘Hey, that’s ours - we own the braai!’

When you visit South Africa, you’ll quickly learn I’m not alone in being braainwashed.  The need to braai (barbeque) is hardwired into the DNA of South Africans, like the Monarchy is to the Brits. You cannot have one without the other.

Braaing is now so cool it’s even spawned a new breed of minor celebrities like Jan Braai, and Braai Boy, and Agent 0027, James Braai. Lady Gaga in her frightful meat dress doesn’t count unless we’re allowed to put her couture on a spit…

Around a braai is where we are truly South African. We come in peace and shoot to grill. Race, creed, and colour all magically go up in smoke when the first coil of boerewors hits the coals. These days we’re so tolerant we’ll even let a vegan sneak a mushroom kebab or two onto the grill.

Since mankind originated in southern Africa, I’d argue that we do own the braai. But the truth is in every country where Mom Nature is kind enough to let the sun shine for even a couple of days a year, people have learned to eat outdoors and cook over a fire.

You can ‘chop’ down my assertions, ‘steak’ your reputation like the Prof tried to do, or ‘chicken’ out of the whole argument all together. But just don’t touch me on my braai….

Image coutesy and copyright Braaiboy.

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