Yep, you’re not mistaken. You’re actually getting two posts from me in one day. Aren’t you lucky?
But that’s symbolic of this day, you see. For not only is South Africa today celebrating Heritage Day, but also National Braai Day.
Braai is the Afrikaans word for barbecue. The word is derived from the Dutch braden, meaning “to roast”. In South Africa the word has been adopted into English, also appearing in the South African version of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Braais involve roasting meat over an open fire, usually wood (if available) or charcoal. Some people prefer gas. It usually takes place outside, but some people build indoor braais as part of their homes. In a pinch you can use the fireplace. We engage in this activity at all times of the year and in all weather conditions. Roaring thunderstorms? No problem. Carry the braai into the garage or get a couple of mates to hold umbrellas over the fire. Snow? Well, the fire’s gonna heat you up, isn’t it? Many an ex-pat South African in colder climes have endured the stares of passersby huddled around the grill in freezing weather, knowing the reward at the end of the day is worth it.
The only weather conditions that may potentially disrupt a braai is excessive wind, but only because it keep blowing out the matches before you can light the fire. But even then, ‘n boer maak ‘n plan.
What you braai is largely determined by culture and income, but there’s always fire, meat (or veggies if you’re making chicken – you can actually braai regular veggies as well), beer and lots of bonding. Accompanying the meat could be various salads, both green and starch-based, cheese-and-tomato sandwiches roasted over the coals, garlic bread, potatoes roasted in foil in the coals and afterward liberally covered in cheese, and pap (a porridge made from maize meal the consistency of which can range from crumbly to something approximating moist plaster-of-paris) with sauce (anything from gravy to chakalaka so hot it would make any chilly-champion gasp for breath).
Swimming pools are highly preferable for summer braais. They are often organised to coincide with rugby or soccer matches and are acceptable ways to celebrate birthdays, promotions, graduations, anniversaries and new arrivals (be they babies or neighbours). With the ever-rising cost of weddings more and more people are even holding bring-and-braais (where you bring your own meat and booze) instead of formal receptions.
We also have a reality show on television about braai. It’s called The Ultimate Braai Master and is a kind of hybrid between Amazing Race, Survivor, and Masterchef.
In 2005 a guy calling himself Jan Braai started a campaign to rebrand Heritage Day as Braai Day. At first he was met with fierce resistance from some quarters but when he made clear that he was doing this a way to put an emphasis on our shared heritage people started warming up to the idea. In 2007 National Braai Day was officially endorsed by South Africa’s National Heritage Council and Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appointed as the initiative’s patron.
National Braai Day even has an anthem, available below:
Disclaimer: Please note that accelerants should never be used in starting a cooking fire. Watch the video, then you’ll understand. Also: People following the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle should probably not watch the video nor read the rest of this post – you might find some of the images upsetting.
To see how the wife and I celebrated Braai Day, click on page 2 below.