Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My father performing the ritual that evolved in Africa. Cooking meat over fire.

Some useful vocabulary:

The act of barbecuing anything over hot coals - Braaing (brah -ying)
Constructing said fire - Making a Braai (brah-yee)
The Weber/oil drum cut in half/brick and mortar construction in which fire is made - The Braaivleis Place (brah-yee-flace place) or just The Braai (brah-yee)
The occasion of barbecuing - A Braai, as in, We are going to a braai tonight. (brah-yee)

I think that about covers it.

Cultural peculiarities:

Newspaper, wood and charcoal are the ingredients of a braai fire. You may omit the charcoal. You may not use fire lighter. Ever. You just don't smell that here. Gas barbecues are never seen.

Lamb chops are the typical braai meat. Boerewors (booh-ruh-vawrs - aka farmer's sausage), below, is ubiquitous. Lamb ribs, lamb sosaties (kebabs) feature. Fish is often braaied. Tonight we are having snoek, for instance. Of course chicken and steak and just about everything inbetween are allowed. Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches are a staple of certain household braais, as a sort of side dish. You can braai a whole leg of lamb or a chicken sitting on a can of beer. Potjiekos (pawhee-kee-kaws - aka little pot food) is a whole other subject, cooked as a long-simmered stew of meat and vegetables in layers in a pot-bellied, cast iron pot placed over coals.

Above, we had a coil (top) of kameeldoring (kah-meel-dooh-wur-ung aka's a tree) boerewors from the pork shop at Joostenberg Farm near Paarl. I don't know why it is called kameeldoring and will have to ask. Plus the fatter piece of Grabouw boerewors (Grabouw is a town) from Woolworths, a very delicious, upscale and consequently rather pricey supermarket chain.

' defining flavour is the use of powdered coriander. The meat is usually beef, in course grind, with little, important cubes of fat in it. These make it sizzle a lot on the fire. People are fiercely loyal sometimes to certain butcher's blends of meat and spices. Even supermarket chains have good boerewors.

Because I have never seen boerewors in the States, this may be the first kind of sausage I learn to make. My mother has, somewhere, "Robert Smit's mother's boerewors recipe", as it is known.

Robert Smit was my father's best man at my parents' wedding in Bloemfontein in 1954. He and his wife were murdered years later, presumably on the orders of a high-up in his own political party, the National Party, who were the government. He had been about to blow the whistle on a very big government money scandal involving the International Monetary Fund and Swiss bank accounts.

So there you have it. A taste of South Africa.

Braaivleis and bloodshed.

Find my boerewors recipe at 66 Square Feet (the Food)


  1. I had a snoek braai AND went to Harbour House last week. Got to love South Africa (Cape Town in partic.)

  2. Are there no bugs in South Africa? The dining set ups in your family's gardens are so beautiful and elegant and lovely. I just love the photos of your home dinner parties. But we'd be dashing for the house or burning smelly candles or running electric zappers. It must be more hospitable outdoors than New England in summer! Cape Town does look spectacular.

  3. And, a respectful pace behind your father, a hopeful dog.

    With you on the stinky kerosene lighters. Ugh!

  4. She's back! Back and making me hungry. All is right in my world.

  5. Woolworths? Funny, our old woolworths was a 5 and dime, but maybe you knew that.

    Your plate o' braai looks familiar to my experience growing up, but instead of your sausage, it was Italian, links and coiled, and chicken marinated in lemon, olive oil, and thyme.

    If I hadnt just eaten, I'd be hungry!

  6. I hope you're having a great visit with your family! It's always nice to come home, isn't it?

  7. Hm, you kindly omitted the embarrassing fact that I will do anything for boerewors... 'Storbie and I have a lot in common after all...

  8. and a reminder that sometimes it's better not to have a "brush with greatness". yikes.

    i am enjoying SA. i will probably never make it there myself.

  9. L Sostsman - jealous of your horse adventures...

    Bugs, not really. Nothing flies into us or bites us outside here in the Cape, which has a Mediterranean climate. Up NW in the Kgalagadi we had one night of big, nasty beetles and moths attracted to the lamps, which was creepy, but I have never experienced that before. Mosquitoes in the far NW. But I have never encountered mosquitoes in the way I have in the US! Brooklyn has more than Cape Town :-)

    Forgive me for not replying to everyone's comments. Internet is a bit iffy down here, and I must grab it while it's alive.

    I remain, yours faithfully, etc.

  10. Looks fabulous... and I hope to be doing the same at ma-in-law's place in Constantia in March :) I've always wondered why that wors is called kameeldoring too.

  11. I found your blog via a search for "snoek braai". I am enjoying reading your other posts, as well. I've not been to NY yet except JFK airport which was not a big thrill for me. I, too, am from Cape Town, and I was wanting to tell someone about the fishermen who would sell the snoek straight off the boat. How fresh can anything get, 'eh? We used to braai all the time in Melbosstrand and the only thing that ever bothered us, was the wind (on occasion). Can't say I remember bugs being a bother ... maybe, flies. Probably was used to whatever flew our way.

    Looking forward to more posts. :)


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