The weekend has come and gone and this week brings the terrible realisation that with the start of the new school year comes the return of the traffic from hell. This trebles my journey time to and from work and serves as a reminder that I really need to win the lottery and buy that helicopter.
The abject depression that sitting in traffic can produce must be countered in some way. And that’s why we used this weekend to chill out and relax before reality kicked in. Saturday afternoon was spent next to the pool, braai’ing with friends. (Braai’ing, to the uninitiated, is what the rest of the world calls barbequing). The South African braai is a national institution – we even have National Braai Day here – and that’s why it is important for me to learn and follow the strict (yet unwritten) SA Braai Code if I am to fully integrate into this society.
No matter where you are in the world, braai’ing is a man’s job. Trying to get your average Saffa bloke to cook in the kitchen is like trying to get him to wear one of your daintiest dresses, pink fluffy slippers and lipstick, but there’s no separating him from his braai. And while other nations pile on the charcoal briquettes from their local petrol station, South African men stand for hours around braais and discuss which wood should be used on the fire. The traditional option is Rooikrans – alien to SA and therefore fair game for anyone to chop down and burn under some bits of sheep. But one of my visitors on the weekend was very excited to note that I was using dried vine wood.
“That stuff is great, hey – exceptional burning and great coals!”, he enthusiastically told me.
I nodded knowingly, despite the fact that I had bought it from the local petrol station in the sort of blind panic which only comes with finding that you have no braaiwood 10 minutes before your guests are arriving for a braai. I am the king of bluff.
“Have you tried Namibian Camelthorn?”, he asked.
I smiled and took a sip of my beer to give me thinking time.
“I haven’t, but I believe it burns forever?”, I ventured.
It was a good guess – this was more braaiwood talk – Camelthorn was not the latest beer to hit the market or some new designer drug. My guest was impressed. I am the king of bluff.
The other thing I have to get used to is the fact that braai talk here is restricted to very few topics: rugby, cricket, kids (where applicable) and braaiwood.
Thou shalt not talk of music or women or football or beer. And that’s just a little bit bizarre as far as I’m concerned. Barbeques in the UK won’t even light without some mention of Kelly Brook and “that goal” from Thierry Henry on Wednesday night. That said, often they just don’t light because it’s raining.
Finally – meat. Australia has it’s prawns, England has its burgers and pork sausages, but here in SA you can braai anything. And basically, the bigger the chunks of flesh or the longer the boerewors that you stick over your Namibian Camelthorn, the better. Extra marks are awarded for the range of different meats you can braai simultaneously (without mixing surf and turf – a big faux pas). My record stands at chicken, lamb, pork, beef, ostrich, boerewors (4 different varieties) and a token frozen burger (I was feeling homesick that day).
If you have bought your wors from Checkers, never admit to it. Guests will wonder if they are eating donkey or dog and will be repulsed. However, if you bought donkey or dog wors at Woolies, that’s just fine.
I mentioned boogie’ing in the title of this post. That’s because we went to see The Parlotones at Kirstenbosch on Sunday evening to round off our weekend. They were simply awesome. UK readers, you might not have heard of The Parlotones yet, but they’re going to be big, so why not impress your friends around the braai by slipping their name into the conversation?
Try that awkward silence while everyone’s thinking about their favourite bit of Kelly Brook.