Chit chat: Jan Scannell

2010-09-10 07:50

Many people have started observing Braai4Heritage as part of their Heritage Day celebrations. The organiser of the campaign is a braai fanatic who spends most of his time trying to spread the message to millions across the country. Mokgadi Seabi finds out what’s cooking for the man who managed to get Archbishop Desmond Tutu to act as the patron of his campaign.

When and how did the idea of National Day come about?
It was a few years ago. I realised that a love of lighting fires and braaing is the one thing all South Africans have in common.

Then I had the idea of having one day a year to celebrate this.

Why have it on Heritage Day?
In Africa, the fire is a traditional place of gathering. It’s the place of heat, light, sharing knowledge and cooking food.

South Africa has a rich and diverse heritage, but we have one common heritage and that is to gather around a fire and braai with friends and family.

It’s a tangible, expressive and ­inclusive celebration of being South African.

It involves physical participation from everyone in the country.

You are not attending a speech at a sports complex; you are physically celebrating with your loved ones.

It is inclusive ­because you can enjoy a braai ­irrespective of your race, language or religious denomination.

There are very few other things that are so widely practised and enjoyed by all South Africans.

How has this concept grown?
We are seeing massive interest from the public and the media.

The 2010 soccer World Cup has shown what a great positive ­impact one nation-building ­exercise can have on the country.

National Braai Day does not cost the taxpayer a cent and it will happen every year on September 24.

It’s a truly special and uniquely South African celebration.

You seem to know a lot about the art of braaing?
I try to do a practical study ­every day, whether it’s braaing at home with other people or going to a shisa nyama.

People often joke that there’s a ­hierarchy at the braai area – a tong master and his assistants.
There is a lot of talk about ­braaing rules, but I don’t really agree with most of these rules.

The most important rule is to have enough coals and enough meat.

Also, don’t braai the meat too long as it becomes dry and loses taste.

How has the braaing business contributed to the economy?
Cattle, sheep, pig and chicken farmers, the abattoirs, the meat wholesalers and the butcheries all benefit.

It also benefits the guys who chop and sell wood, and there are benefits that flow from the drinks and ice that go with a braai, the music we listen to
and all the equipment we use, such as grids and tongs.

When you consider the multiplier effect of the money that is spent,
the economy of the country gets an injection of a few hundred ­million rands every year on ­September 24.

What are the must-haves for a braai?
A good pair of braai tongs is ­essential.

They must be able to lift burning logs, turn meat and ­perform a double snap to round off any profound statement that you make at the braai.

You need dry wood because wet logs make smoke and sometimes don’t light at all.

You also need enough ice for your drinks.

Last, but not least, you need interesting politicians (IPs) and controversial sports coaches (CSCs) to provide great conversation.

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