News / Africa

South Africans Meet on Heritage Day to … Eat Meat

Rugby fans pour some beer on their braai meat , Soweto, South Africa, May 29, 2010 file photo.
Rugby fans pour some beer on their braai meat , Soweto, South Africa, May 29, 2010 file photo.
Anita Powell
Every September 24, South Africans observe Heritage Day, a celebration the country's diverse cultures and beliefs.
 
But some people want the day to focus on the one thing all South Africans seem to have in common: a passion for cooking meat on the grill, known as braai, the Afrikaans word for grill or barbecue.
 
But for many South Africans, Braai means much, much more than that. In a nation where babies are given dried meat for teething; where parliament has twice debated the merits of eating horse; and where saying you don’t like beloved boerewors sausages is grounds for a fight, to say that South Africans like meat is an understatement.
 
"We have, what, 11 official languages? But only one word for this wonderful institution: braai," said Archbishop Desmond Tutu upon the launching the renaming initiative in 2007. "It’s braai in Xhosa, it’s braai in Afrikaans, it’s braai in English, it’s braai in whatever. And it has fantastic potential to bind us together.”
 
Braai Day initiative leader, Jan Braai (his real name is Jan Scannel), says there is one essential element to a great braai, and surprisingly it isn’t meat.
 
“This is about much more than cooking meat on a fire," he said. "In fact, whether you actually cook meat on a fire is utterly unimportant. You can cook vegetables on that fire, or fish, or just stand around the fire. This is about uniting a nation, a nation so divided by its past, but a nation that has everything going for it to be a fantastic place, and we are a fantastic place."
 
Judging by statistics — and by Johannesburg’s ravaged supermarkets — many South Africans are going with meat for their braai.
 
According to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, the average South African ate 58.6 kilograms of meat — equivalent to two small lambs — in 2009, the last year for which they prepared figures. Although Americans still beat South Africans at the meat-eating stakes, devouring nearly twice as much, South Africa’s consumption is steadily rising.
 
For Dimitri Gutjahr, owner of a popular vegetarian restaurant in Johannesburg, the Braai Day initiative is an awful idea. Being South African and vegan — he claims it's not a contradiction — he can't reconcile the prospect of a national celebration built upon an unusually large slaughter of animals.
 
“Sometimes [people] don’t see the true meaning behind things, we take everything for granted," Gutjahr said. "We’re born having braais all the time, but the truth behind that is that we’d be celebrating a day, and because of that day a whole lot of extra animals would have to be butchered and slaughtered ... I don’t think that’s really cool.”
 
But still he couldn’t resist sticking his nose over the braai.
 
“You know, a good idea for a braai is to do a papillote in tinfoil, where you make a fire on a grill and then in tin foil you can put vegetables, nuts, grains," he said. "You pretty much steam it — anything you could steam, and you could still make something on a braai that’s fun. Half the fun about a braai is that you’re around a fire …  and you’re with the elements, you’re outdoors with your friends, talking, chatting, building a fire together and cooking together.”
 
So whatever is on your grill this Heritage Day — and regardless of your ethnicity, background and language — fire it up and enjoy, South Africa.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs