OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN BRAAI AND HOT WHEELS
“Come by at 2 p.m. with a piece of meat; we’ll sort out the rest.” I could hardly wait to observe the African animal world from the grill-side. I rang the bell right on time. The lady of the house greeted me with the unusual welcome, “You are a bit early!” It would seem that according to South African grill rules, 2 p.m. really means late afternoon: apart from my host’s son, the rest of the guests arrived one after another from about 4 p.m. And the meat I had taken for the grill – a delicate turkey breast – was also not quite what my hostess had expected.
She sheepishly thanked me and disappeared into the kitchen with it. In South Africa, turkey comes under the category of salad. And that’s not something you can barbecue. So instead of the hot coals, my grill offering landed in the frying pan and appeared later with the various side dishes guests had brought for the salad buffet.
To replace my schnitzel, I was offered a spiral of rolled sausage made from antelope meat. “It is a typical speciality in our country known as Burenwurst,” my host explained proudly, “and it tastes great spiced with coriander, nutmeg and cloves.”
Much more confusing to me that the rolled up Burenwurst – that could definitely be straightened out – was the lack of any grill. There was no fire in sight. How could there be a Braai without a flame? The word “barbecue” is, incidentally, taboo in South Africa. It’s the most hallowed of all grills that is celebrated here – the Braai! Purchasing charcoal goes against the high art form of the Braai. Instead, the fire is tended lovingly for hours over a cool beer until the wood becomes charcoal at just the right temperature. And the meat can only cook slowly. But it needs to be the right meat: red in colour and at least a kilogram in weight! Where I come from, everyone nervously dances round the grill, but the roles are clearly marked at the Braai – and in the hands of the men. Everyone can say what they think. But only one person can put their hand to it and turn the precious pieces of meat – the Braai Master. But where was the Braai Master, in this case the host’s son? And the grill? It was slowly becoming dark and no-one seemed perturbed. Until I suddenly heard the sound of a loud horn and everyone hastily grabbed their meat! The Braai Master raced round the corner in his stylish jeep, leaving a thick cloud of smoke in his wake. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I looked at the truck bed: there it was – our Braai!
The coals burned in fiery red perfection. The grill was ready and just had to be carried to the garden. I had to hand it to him – our Braai Master had made a blistering entrance in his hot wheels!