- Author: Carol Wirth
South Africa, a place where the not-so-distant past is riddled with division and despair, which makes it ironic that this is a country of great warmth, not just climate-wise. For a nation that was so divided, how can South Africans be some of the warmest people on earth?
As an American, I can attest to its attraction. After my father traveled there in the late 1980s, he became enamored with the country and mildly obsessed. I inherited a tall stack of books on the topic. My husband has close friends in Southern Africa, and we have traveled there regularly. People ask us why go back to the same faraway place again and again? The people are like home to us.
When asked to define the culture, I can’t put words to it. All I can do is explain the experiences I have had there when people open up their homes and businesses to you at your planned or unplanned arrival. They put a cocktail in your hand, invite you to join them as they sit around and talk, time slows down. Everywhere you go, this happens. Now, if you stop in and they are having a braai – the tempo picks up a bit!
A braai means cooking some meat on a wood fire. Even vegetarians have found options for the braai. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a pivotal leader to end apartheid, explained, “Not one South African person can tell you that they have never witnessed a braai. Even in rural areas they light a fire and put their meat on it to cook.”
Braai is not simply about the action of grilling, it is more about the activity of gathering around a fire and cooking together. If I had to compare it to something American, think BBQ and tailgating.
On September 24, 2007, one man Jan Scannell (now called Jan Braai) began an initiative called National Braai Day.
Its intent is to have all South Africans everywhere come together in spirit wherever they are and braai on September 24th every year. The call to all South Africans is to unite around fires, “share our heritage and wave our flag.”
Remember, this is a nation in which Nelson Mandela inspired a broken country in post-Apartheid to unite around a rugby game, when they hosted the 1995 World Cup. Archbishop Tutu endorsed National Braai Day, which aims to “contribute to strengthening South Africa as a nation through this act of nation building and social cohesion.”
A meat typically served at a braai is called Boerewors. This comes from the Afrikaans words Boer (Farmer) and wors (sausage). It is a culinary mix of European sausage making, knowledge of spices brought from Eastern countries and good South African meats. About the only place in Savannah, Georgia for Boerewors is , a local eatery owned by one South African and one Italian.
Some other comparisons to American culture:
- While we just marked the first day of autumn in the U.S. – it is the beginning of spring in South Africa.
- Similar to our national holiday Thanksgiving celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November – South Africa celebrates its National Heritage Day on September 24th, it’s a public holiday.
- Droëwors is wors (sausage) hung to dry to preserve for traveling, much like our beef jerky.
Now that the history lesson is over…Let’s have a braai, y’all!
For those of you who really want to get in the spirit listen to the National Braai Day Song.
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At Glimsity, in our regular work day we talk to a lot of people, collect useful nuggets of information, gather insight and identify trends locally. Lil is an acronym for Local inside look (Lil). At , we want to share the good stuff with you. It’s everything that doesn’t fit into our short videos.