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)
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