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

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora