Close-Up | A plant-based braai? That’s food for thought

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Fred Khumalo shares his view on plant based braai. Photo: File
Fred Khumalo shares his view on plant based braai. Photo: File


As we wrap up Heritage Month, I cannot help but recall how, some years ago, I publicly crossed swords with a man who was telling me what to write in my column while I was working for the other Sunday paper.

From when we were kids growing up in KwaZulu-Natal before 1994, this day was called Shaka’s Day, to commemorate the Zulu king who was killed on September 22 1828. But in his eternal wisdom (!?) Mangosuthu Buthelezi, when he was still chief minister of the Kwazulu Bantustan, decided to choose September 24, not 22, as the day to honour King Shaka.

To other South Africans, until the talks that led to the dismantling of apartheid, September 24 had never been a holiday. As a result, many were nonplussed when it was given the name Heritage Day.

READSouth Africans start to celebrate Heritage Day in style

But the man who wrote to me thought Shaka’s Day had the baggage of history, and Heritage Day was too political. He thought he had found just the name for this day – National Braai Day. And he wanted my endorsement. The tone of his letters was demanding. I had to say no.

Disappointed, he wrote back, saying how unpatriotic of me blah blah. Those are the pleasures of being a popular columnist for the biggest newspaper in the land; insults drop on you like confetti on wedding day.

In one of the lines in his letter, he wondered aloud, asking, “What’s wrong with this African who does not like a good braai?” I am paraphrasing now, but that was the gist of it; that a good African could not be parted from his meat.

Fred Khumalo said: 

If I were to allow myself to be carried away and use my column to trade insults with interlocutors of this man’s ilk, then my column would be an angry place. Just because I could not endorse his proposed name, then I was unAfrican; I did not have respect for my meat.

I’ll have you know, my fellow South Africans, I love my meat. That’s why I was a bit shaken when, once again, another meat proposal crossed my desk last week. Like my National Braai Day friend, this person also centred his pitch on Heritage Day. Except he was saying a real modern braai should not have meat.

Yeah, I know the hazards of meat-eating have been recorded very eloquently. But I want to say that meat, like anything consumed in moderation, is still good for you.

What Donovan Will has done is to compile what he calls A Meat Lover’s Guide to a Vegan Braai.

He argues that you can have a full-on braai but the “steaks” and the “burgers” that you will put on your grill will be plant-based. A plant-based fillet, a plant-based mutton chop?

I’ll be the first one to howl against the idea. And this is just my prejudice speaking out. I have yet to eat a plant-based steak.

READTweak your Heritage Day braai

My experiment with non-meat “meat” was with soya products. That was quite a while ago, before the word vegan was even coined. Soya sausages suck.

I could sense that my boss Mondli Makhanya was ready to experiment with these plant-based things. So, I decided not to make too much noise. I thought I should wait out the storm. Give me a few weeks before I take the plunge into these vegan waters.

Tolerant as I am of other viewpoints, I still think the whole idea sounds unholy. Even the Bible militates against it. You think I am joking?

The first example of sacrifice in the Bible is found in the account of Cain and Abel, who were part of the first human family we encounter in the Holy Book. When these first two sons of Adam and Eve presented their sacrifices before the Lord, Abel’s sacrifice was accepted while Cain’s was rejected.

Fred Khumalo writes: 

Why was Cain’s offering rejected? Cain had presented the lord with vegetables and fruit; while his brother Abel had offered the Lord some juicy mutton chops.

So you see, even the Lord frowns on a braai that contains only vegetables and fruit.

I think, comrades, I need to steel myself for a full-on vegan braai. Give me some time while I read A Meat Lover’s Guide to a Vegan Braai. I think such a braai needs nerves of steel.


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