When you travel abroad it somehow brings change, whether you want it or not. It makes you ask questions you never knew you had. It opens your eyes to things you’ve seen but never really seen. It sometimes makes you uncomfortable about how you perceive certain things and in a sense it makes you re-evaluate yourself, your circumstances, your work, your country and its wine. It somehow brings perspective.
I recently had the pleasure of travelling to Portugal. During my week-long stay my host introduced me to authentic Portugal and its culture, people, food and wine. I discovered how delightful a crisp, zesty Vinho Verde tastes on a balmy Monday afternoon and now know what bright citrus and green apple flavours are. I was also introduced to fried squid and learned Portuguese cuisine has always been based on food from the ocean, which is fitting for this historic seafaring nation. And I’ll never forget the smell of sardines at two in the morning in an overcrowded restaurant on the banks of the Douro River in the heart of Porto.
The thing is, I had the privilege of tasting authentic Portugal – things true and dear to its people. Which made me think. If I had to return the favour or introduce someone from another country to authentic South Africa, where would I take them? And what would I serve them?
Which of course, led me straight to the braai. Ah, don’t we all just love to braai. A barbeque? your friend from abroad might ask. And yes, while there are similarities, a true South African braai is so much more.
Whether you use rooikrans or kameeldoring, your own concoction of cloves, coriander seeds, pepper, nutmeg and allspice or Nomu’s BBQ rub, we’re in heaven as long as we can cook our food over an open wood fire. And we don’t need an occasion or a season – braaiing is an everyday occasion and celebration of life.
The way you go about it is of course very important. For starters it involves a grill and wood fire. Okay, some people use charcoal, but no gas! And there’s method in this madness. If you use kameeldoring wood from Gochas in Namibia you need time. Which is the whole point of a braai. It’s not just about slapping a few chops on the fire, it’s about the experience, the company and the food.
No hot dogs and hamburger patties from Woolies – we South Africans love our meat. Whether it’s Goedehoop’s boerewors or spicy sausage made with a mixture of beef and pork, the braai involves unprocessed meat and lots of it: lamb chops, beef steaks, rack of lamb, chicken, sosaties, pork rashers or a whole rib. We just love having options.
And then there are the liquid refreshments, which are never in short supply. Whether it’s a crisp Darling Sauvignon Blanc or bold Kanonkop Pinotage, cider, craft beer or cocktail, if it’s cold, it’s consumed.
A true South African braai however mostly revolves around the people, young and old. When we stand around an open fire with a glass of something cold in our hand, we hire and fire, we choose a new president, we plan families, we celebrate success, we lose a few friends and make new ones. We braai when we’re happy and we braai when we’re sad. We even braai to become happy again. Our love of braaiing brings us together. It makes us proud of our heritage.
Much like our wine.
In this month’s issue we celebrate all things local and lekker.
So long till next month.