Celebrating South Africa's Heritage Day with a braai
September 24th, 2012
09:00 AM ET
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While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.

A few things are sacred to a South African, and a braai is definitely near the top of that list. A braai (rhymes with fry) is the Saffas version of a barbecue – essentially cooking meat over an open flame. But to us, it goes way beyond that. Its cultural significance is such that braaing has its own day – National Braai Day.

September 24 was designated National Braai Day in 2005. It falls on the same day as Heritage Day – a public holiday that serves to promote “creative expression, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat as well as the land in which we live,” or in other words, all the things that make South Africa the exceptional place it is.

Given the country’s turbulent political past, the day is intended to unite South Africans from all backgrounds under the idea that variety should be celebrated. In that same spirit, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appointed the patron of National Braai Day back in 2007. It’s also inspired an anthem and a Rebecca Black parody.

South Africans are encouraged to spend the day with friends, cooking out. At a braai (Afrikaans for barbecue), the meat is the main focus. South Africans love meat, and cooking over an open flame highlights the local beef, pork, chicken and lamb you’ll likely find sizzling away at a braai. Boerewors, a braai staple, is a pork and beef sausage flavored with coriander and garlic. Sosaties, which are marinated (mostly) chicken kebabs, are popular, as are steaks and lamb chops.

Braais take longer than the average American cookout because we don’t typically cook on gas. Charcoal, briquettes or wood are traditionally used. Bring and braais are very popular – with each person attending providing their own meat.

Men typically tend to the braai (the word references the grill and the technique), with women handling the sides, which are mostly salads and maybe some sort of potato dish. While the concept may sound a little sexist, it works, and more and more women braai now too.

Because the temperature of the braai can’t be regulated the same way a gas grill can be, braaing can be a bit trickier. There’s definitely an added element of planning involved, and most people take their technique seriously.

My dad taught me how to braai as a little girl. One of my earliest memories is of him teaching me how to properly cook meat and drink a beer. Now, whenever I go home, it’s my favorite thing to do.

You don’t need to be South African to celebrate braai day, after all, it’s the concept that’s being celebrated. Gather some friends (maybe include someone you’ve been meaning to get to know), grab some meat and a few cold beers, and light the grill.

Fall might already be here, but take the time to bid farewell to the summer with a cookout. For added authenticity, you could try finding some boerewors or cooking up some kebabs and lamb chops. South Africans have settled all across America, and boerie (as we call it) is getting easier and easier to find. All that matters is that you spend some quality time cooking with friends, and enjoy the moment.

Previously - A taste of the World Cup and How Emily got her appetite back

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Filed under: African • Breakfast Buffet • Cuisines • Food Holidays • Grilling • News • South Africa • South African


soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. dada

    I lived there in 2010..braii is good but really it the what BBQ is here. boreqwors are really tasty. but i wud agree with Layne. white afrikanners are bad on diet and most of them don't live healthy.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  2. F. Schrodinger

    So, what's the recipe? You talked a lot about braai but never said what it was or how to make it.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • Capie

      Sonskyn , rugby en braaivleis (sunshine, rugby and braai).....

      September 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  3. Go Ducks

    LMAO! When I was in South Africa back in 200 i counted the number of holidays in a year there, if I remember correctly it was something like 55.

    Red Solo Cup, I fill you up, It's time to party!
    Let's have a party.

    September 24, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Gypsy Girl

      only public 13 holidays in South Africa i live there so i should know

      September 25, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • Gypsy Girl

      not true only 13 Public holidays

      September 25, 2012 at 4:26 am |
  4. saintjohnmasterscrossfit

    According to my wife – you never need a special occasion to have boerewors.

    September 24, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Capie

      True, but then you get ordinary boerewors and BOEREWORS.....!

      September 25, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  5. gassengirl

    I've never even heard of Braai! Loved reading about it, would love to try it!

    September 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Layne

      It's delicious. Really.

      It's also the reason so many Afrikaners drop dead of heart attacks in their early forties. Afrikaners have the lowest life expectancy of any European people, and their diet is the primary factor.

      Please enjoy in moderation.

      September 24, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  6. Cassie

    Happy South African Heritage Day!!!

    September 24, 2012 at 10:32 am |
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