What's your braai tradition?

2010-09-21 00:00

It's every South African man's prerogative: to haul out the charcoal, crack open a beer and stand around a blazing hot braai as coals smoulder and flames crackle on a hot day.

Sure, it's backwards and somewhat reminiscent of the 1950s but, on braai day, most South African women are relegated to the kitchen to prepare potato or bean salad while the men get to work. 

I grew up in a home where my father was the braai-king. Perfect pieces of meat would find their ways onto our plates, and the fire was always the perfect temperature for toasting marshmallows after the meal.

My dad made it look so easy.

And so, when I moved 600 kilometres from home and my dad's stellar braai-skills I thought I could do the same. How hard could it be? I asked myself.

My neighbour and fellow Witness journo, Tharuna Devchand and I chose a hot Saturday evening to have our braai. 

There were just two small problems: 1) Neither of us was entirely certian of how to make a fire and 2) Tharuna is a vegetarian.

Still, unperturbed we emptied charcoal into the bottom of my miniscule R160 braai stand and tried to light the coal. It didn't work. 

We tore strips of newspaper (suddenly glad we were Witness employees) and put them into the braai.

We lit those and they burned spectacularly - for two minutes. Then they fizzled out and left us coughing and spluttering in a cloud of ash and smoke.

Tharuna mentioned something about firelighters, although she admitted to not knowing how they worked.

Determined to have our braai we drove to the closest convenience store and bought the biggest box of firelighters we could find (we now know only pyromaniacs use an entire box of firelighters in a braai stand the size of a shoe box).

After what felt like a life time of dousing flames and waiting, our fire was ready.

We had a delicious veggie braai, drank cocktails from too-large martini glasses and watched the King and I. 

And that's our braai tradition: we're two young women who enjoy our braaied vegetables while watching old school musicals. And, hey, it works for us.

So tell us, do you have an offbeat braai tradition? Perhaps you have special memories that involve family and friends around the braai? We'd love to hear your story.

And happy braai - er - Heritage Day, everyone!

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