Braai: The Grill Unites South Africa

Our Senior Pretoria Correspondent, Janet Katz, shares an introduction to the South African version of grilled meat — the braai (rhymes with fry) — from the New York Times, complete with slide show.

Trigger warning:   As usual with the New York Times, the slide show leads with a photograph of meat being burned to a crisp by high flames.  Please do not show that picture to children.  Flames should never touch the meat.  The New York Times has its strengths, but they do not extend to cooking out of doors.

Back to the braai.

Everyone in South Africa “braais.”  (Like “barbecue,” braai is a noun verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, way of life, reason to drink beer … you name it.)    There are many permissible variations of braai.  The one requirement is that you have at least two different kinds of meat on the grill — beef, lamb, ostrich, wildebeast, you name it — at the same time.  Coils of pork sausage are big.  Chickens are considered a vegetable.  The authenticity of a braai is at its zenith with a wood fire, but charcoal is acceptable.  A gas fire… well, we don’t talk about gas fires.

It sounds a lot like churrasco.  (By the way, there is an opening for a Senior South American Correspondent.)

South Africa has started a national holiday to celebrate braai.  Some have argued that, lest we fall behind and leave a Grill Gap, the United States should establish a Department of Barbecue.  Realizing that, as  Kafka observed, “Every revolution eventually recedes, leaving behind only the slime of a bureaucracy,” I support creation of a Barbecue Czar, with wide-ranging authority and a large travel allowance, and maybe one staffer to fend off phone calls and to throw under the bus at congressional oversight hearings.  Lean and nimble.  This is America.  We can do better.

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