This country’s come a long way from the days of slavery, colonialism, 50 years of legalised racism, then a few skirmishes in the years between Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and his inauguration as President in 1994 when the country was finally a real democracy. Now we’re all united and happy, we no longer see colour, we treat everyone as equals and we love our government.
Not really, actually.
20 years is just a moment in history so we’ve a long way to go and we’ll never be a perfect nation because there’s no such thing.
In the meantime, we have Heritage Day – 24 September. This is the day on which we should reflect on our heritage, what it means to each of us, who we are, who we want to be, and how we relate to each other. This isn’t easy for 50 million people as diverse as this rainbow nation. There are people in this country who have never left their village, there are whites who have never had a black friend and don’t even know any black people except their staff, there are people who speak 6 of the 11 official languages, there are some who speak only one, there are people who know nothing about others’ cultures, there are people who are scared of other cultures. We are many, we are diverse, and the country is huge.
So what do we have in common? Is there any ONE thing that we all have in common?
Yes! A deep abiding love of cooking meat on an open fire. Everyone does it, absolutely everyone. And often, very often. Not just in summer when we want to entertain friends. In all seasons, in any weather, with anyone. We call it a ‘braai‘ which is the Afrikaans word for .. well.. cooking meat on an open fire. Everyone uses the same word, everyone does it pretty much the same way and there are very very few who don’t like it. And we do it damn well, too – none of those little sausages and patties, no siree .. steak and chops and our very own unique sausage called a ‘boerewors‘ – Afrikaans word for ‘farmer’s sausage’ – it’s thick, it’s slightly spicy and it’s always included.
So that’s why tomorrow’s holiday was unofficially, and with some controversy, declared National Braai Day. There is still controversy and many detractors because too many people are forgetting the original reason for this public holiday, but that’s the South African way. We tend to not take too much notice of the symbolism and reason for a day off work. We just head for the beach, or light a fire.
Here’s another take on South Africa’s Favourite Pastime with photos of actual food!