September sees South Africans celebrate tourism and heritage. The official Heritage Day on 24 September is also fondly called Braai Day and while we should in no way discount the importance of our history and heritage, sometimes it is in such a simple traditions that we find a lot of meaning – and, perhaps, even some inspiration for our Tourism industry.
While basic survival and the skill of lighting a fire might have become redundant in most everyday situations, in South Africa, the fire still has a lot of significance. Lighting a fire for heat and to make coals for cooking, is an intrinsic part of our culture and one that we share across eleven languages and many different beliefs and traditions. Standing around a fire brings people together in more than the physical sense of the word – it brings fellowship. And that is before we’ve even cooked anything on the coals.
While for many of us open-fire cooking might have been the only option for many years, the braai – in whatever shape or form you enjoy doing it – is an intrinsic part of our food story. And while it is a wonderful shared tradition in a diverse population, it also has exceptional potential as a tourism tool. What better way to introduce foreign guests to our culture than via our food and a traditional ways of cooking? The braai is an experience that can be interactive, social, the best catalyst for story-telling and it makes the most of our beautiful scenery and weather. Of course, it is also the perfect excuse to enjoy a glass of Cape wine – whether it is a refreshing Chenin Blanc when the fires are started or a spicy Shiraz when the meat lands in your plate all sizzling and slightly charred. In a time when it is all about social distancing, doing things outdoors and being more relaxed and authentic – the braai seems to tick all the boxes!
There are so many different braai recipes and South African staples like boerewors and braaibroodjies come in a wide variety with ingredients and methods often passionately debated. Whether you prefer potato salad or pap and chakalaka on the side, whether your ribs are patiently marinated or your chops flavoured only by sea salt, the braai is about much more than the food or the fire. It is about the people and the stories and the shared joys of life. Even when life is tough, lighting a fire lifts the mood and for Tourism, in an unprecedented tough time, perhaps the braai can be a lifeline too!
Here are a few of my favourite recipes. Hope there’s something that inspires you this Braai Day.
- Boerewors – make your own from this very traditional recipe
- Lamb chops – Chef Christiaan at Leopard’s Leap added some hotness with harissa
- Braaibroodjie – all the tradition, but with a touch of tapenade
- Mealie bread and chakalaka
- Potato Salad – not the creamy kind
- Grandma Bessie’s Ribs – She marinated the whole rib for 24 hours and then air-dried it for another day and night. If you wanted to have some of these delicious ribs, you had to inform her about your visit at least two days in advance! Score a large rack of lamb ribs and rub with a cup of grape vinegar, 2 tablespoons of ground coriander, 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt and 2 tablespoons of ground pepper. Rest for 24 hours. Braai! But if you can, take a day to air-dry the ribs like Ouma Bessie, it’s worth the wait!