For many South Africans having a braaivleis by cooking meat over an open fire is second nature. A braai can be made at home with family; when friends come round – given the price of meat, it is common to have a ‘bring and braai’ where guests will contribute meat and/or salads to the occasion; when camping or fishing – and now that Eskom switches off our power for two and a half hours three times a day – sometimes out of necessity.
As the braai is essentially a social occasion, some people like to start with a large fire and chat around it until the wood has burnt to coals of just the right temperature; others use charcoal; most like to build a fire after the food has been cooked to brighten the darkness and create an ambience that encourages friendly conversation. South Africans braai as a matter of course no matter the time of day.
Here is a ‘tame’ braai for a quick snack: boerewors and chicken sausage cooked over glowing charcoal.
It didn’t take long for the meat to cook and, as the fire was still hot enough to cook more food, we offered the use of it – and our braai grid – to the foreign couple camping next door. What prompted that gesture was not only a desire to not waste the fire, but the sight of a length of boerewors curled up in a tiny pan about to be cooked over a tiny gas stove. Horrors, that boerewors would have boiled in its own juices! The offer was taken up with alacrity, only … the chap didn’t know how to cook the meat over the fire. Our pre-teen granddaughter willingly came to the fore to show him how, keeping the fellow company and advising him when to turn the meat and how to tell when it was cooked. He and his companion were delighted by the taste.
This is a typical sight in places such as the Kruger National Park as darkness settles over the rest camp: the start of a braai fire.
Then there are the serious braai places with room for all sorts of dishes to cook at the same time. Breakfast is about to be served …