South Africans are looking forward to the first Football World Cup to be staged in their country – and the first to be staged on African soil. They’re preparing in earnest for the arrival of thousands of fans from all over the globe.
But the focus isn’t only on infrastructure, such as stadiums and roads: The visitors will have to eat, and food will play a central role in welcoming them. Some South Africans are set to open the doors of their private homes to allow the hungry masses to taste food unique to the region.
When the tournament begins in June next year, Albertus and Sanette Potgieter will host a group of Boston-based American football fans at their home in Kempton Park, near Johannesburg.
“We’re looking forward to showing them true South African hospitality,” says Sanette. “We want to make their stay as great as possible, and we believe that feeding the visitors well will go a long way to show the world how good this country is.”
Albertus adds, “Let them taste Africa!”
The Potgieters belong to South Africa’s Afrikaner ethnic group, descendants of Dutch settlers who arrived on the southern tip of the continent in the 1600s.
First up on the menu for the Americans, Sanette reveals, will be a food originally made by these settlers, many of whom were boere, or farmers.
“The making of boerewors – or “farmer’s sausage,” as the English would say – is like a religion to some South Africans.” Albertus laughs. “Each family sort of has its own secret recipe.”
Then he winks, turning the dial on a radio, “A person can’t make boerewors without boeremusiek!”
Soon, the swinging sounds of traditional Afrikaans music, dominated by accordions and a steady beat, have turned the backyard gathering into a party.
In her kitchen, Sanette Potgieter prepares the boerewors mixture. As her main ingredients, she refuses to use anything but superior quality minced steak and fat from a sheep’s tail.
“Too many people these days, especially the big supermarkets, use inferior meat, and pork fat,” she says. “They also add water and chemicals. This is done in order to make the boerewors cheaper. But it also tastes bad. It’s a tragedy that one of our great recipes, that is part of South African culture, is being corrupted like this.”
Sanette melds her meat with the fat she’s cut into small blocks and adds vinegar, salt and a host of spices – including cloves, nutmeg and coriander.
“These spices were already available to our people in the 1600s because Cape Town was one of the world’s major trading ports by then. But there are some ingredients I am not telling you about,” she says, “because this is a secret family recipe!”
Albertus explains, “Our forefathers didn’t have fridges and electricity to cool their meat, so they had to develop other ways to preserve their food – hence the use of so much spices, and salt and vinegar.”
According to South African history, the boere first started making their unique sausages during long exploratory journeys into the country’s hinterland.
“They made the meat in the form of long sausages, because it was easy to hang from their wagons and in their camps. That which wasn’t eaten fresh could be hung and left to dry. It didn’t rot because of all the preserving vinegar and spices,” Albertus says.
Today, butchers in South Africa compete fiercely with one another over who makes the best boerewors. There’s even a national competition held every year, with contestants vying for expensive prizes.
Sanette, however, dismisses these contests as “jokes.”
“The best boerewors is always homemade because one has more time to make sure the product is perfect,” she says.
The housewife is convinced that certain butcheries and supermarkets are “perverting” traditional recipes by adding all sorts of “strange ingredients” to their sausage.
“You name it; they now put it in and insist on calling it boerewors. Well, let me tell you, anything containing cheese, sweet chili sauce and Italian basil isn’t boerewors – it is sacrilege!” Sanette says, hovering over a large silver, cylindrical shaped contraption.
On one end of the machine, over a small nozzle, she fits skin from an animal’s intestine.
Her husband spoons meat into the cylinder. He turns the device’s handle slowly, and then, distracted, shouts, “What have I done with my beer? A person can’t make boerewors without a beer!”
An impatient Sanette glares at him and says, “That’s what happens when someone doesn’t need to drink beer. He loses his beer.”
But Albertus is oblivious to her sarcasm. Having retrieved his cool beverage from under a nearby table, he’s too busy drinking, his red throat heaving with pleasure.
Refreshed, he resumes his work. The meat, spice and fat mixture soon fills the skins until a heap of fresh purple-red boerewors lies curled inside a massive dish.
“Not everything is bigger in America,” Albertus says, while seizing a rope of sausage that looks big enough to feed five men and tossing it unceremoniously onto a grid over white-hot coals.
“People who come here to visit South Africa for the World Cup are going to have a lot of fun, I am sure,” he says. “They’re also going to get very, very fat. I hope the airplanes that take them back are American-sized.”
“Oh, South African planes will do,” Albertus says. “We aren’t exactly the smallest nation on earth ourselves,” he mutters, popping a giant piece of boerewors, oozing fat, into his cavernous mouth, and washing it down with yet another shuddering gulp of lager.