To ‘braai’ is to celebrate life.…
A South African institution as old as time
To braai (pronounced ‘bry’) is the South African’s favourite way to socialise! It’s much more than the culinary craft of grilling (or barbecuing) fresh food over an open fire – it’s the ritual of bringing people together to prepare, cook and enjoy good food in good company. Cooking food on coals or wood flames is as old as mankind, but the braai has been raised to the level of ‘fine art’ across South Africa’s vast landscapes and societies.
This is an integral component of South Africa’s history and food culture. Even national Heritage Day (celebrated annually on 24th September) was renamed National Braai Day at the initiative of world-renowned braai master, Jan Braai. On this day many South Africans will dress up in traditional costume to attend braai festivities, paying homage to the diversity of their individual cultures, traditions, and languages – and of course, to honour the braai tradition.
A braai can literally be organised almost anywhere, indoors and al fresco. It’s all about the alchemy of delicious food, fun and adventure shared with family and friends. The ideal braai begins with a good fire and equally good company, and is usually a very relaxed afternoon or evening affair.
The fire itself represents the very essence of a braai. Making the fire is an unhurried ceremony of coaxing flames from kindling, logs, and often charcoal (known for providing sustained, optimum cooking heat). The tone is set as everyone relaxes around the flames with drinks and snacks – old friends meet, and new friendships are formed.
Designated braai masters – some being actual chefs, others self-made braai experts – hover attentively over the fire, cooking delicacies to perfection (this is not as easy as it sounds!) Side dishes (such as salads, potatoes, braai-broodjies – a local delicacy of cheesy toasties) magically appear, and the feast begins.
A great braai continues long after the leisurely meal is finished. Larger logs are loaded onto the fire, and the mesmerising flares become the centre of attention. Conversations continue, marshmallows are toasted and the ritual slowly comes to its close after hours of camaraderie and delicious indulgence.
A night-time braai beneath an expansive ceiling of stars in the heart of the “bushveld” is one of the most captivating braai experiences imaginable. Campfire conversations mingle with haunting sounds of nocturnal creatures great and small.