Seeing this article from the New York Times made me think about the way we braai back home, and the way it is done in London.
In South Africa there are a few different schools of thought when it comes to braaing.
My uncle Malcolm is a staunch supporter of the carefuly planned, measured and timed braai. The food is ready when the rest of dinner and the guests are ready. The amount of meat (and vegetables) to be cooked has been taken into account and the amount of braai fuel adjusted accordingly. More often than not the meat is already cooked by the time the guests arrive. Doing it this way allows the braai-er complete control of the braai environment and the only interference might be the delivery of a cold beer, nicely poured, to a waiting hand.
A favourite is the “bring and braai” and, when done well, is an efficient and effective process with everyone getting a good portion and variety of custom-cooked meat. When done badly meat comes to the table in waves with chicken invariably still part raw or last off the grid just as the pavlova is about to be served.
Similar to the “bring and braai” is the last minute braai a.k.a. spontaneous braai (not spontaneous combustion). You’ve been at the beach with a bunch of mates and rather than let the party end you decide to carry on into the evening. People pick up the bits and pieces on the way back and all muck in to make it happen. Usually the party atmosphere makes up for the slap-dash nature of the evening and the braai is a success. This is a Cape Town
Some people have the knack of making the braai last until well into the evening and, when everyone is absolutely starving, deliver everything in one fell swoop. Quite often beer is to blame but often is a result of not having clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Large family gatherings, in my experience, most often end up like this. This educational video explains the long established hierarchy around the braai and is a good reference for delegating tasks to various people.embedded by Embedded Video
The English “barbeque” on a wobbly disposable bed of 15-minute (if you’re lucky) coals. This is usually only good for a 6-pack of budget sausages as there is not enough meat in them to harm you if they are not properly cooked after your 15 minutes are up. Now banned from most public open spaces these are often left in disgust as the would-be braai-ers have gone to get a curry instead.
What are the marks of a good braai?
All important is a solid bed of lasting coals – this shows a good eye for quality charcoal and wood, good fire laying and lighting skills and the patience to wait for the fire to be just right.
Quality meat: no veggie burgers or budget pork sausages!
Timing: starting the fire in good time for it to burn down to the solid bed of lasting coals, cooking the meat in stages to all finish at the same time is a good skill to have
Solid preparation: a good supply of cold drinks, ice, sufficient meat, marinaded in time, ingrediants for salads, desserts, paper plates and cutlery, enough chairs for the ladies, an umbrella for the sun, blankets and rugs for laying on the ground, a ball for the kids to play with while they wait.
Peripherals: a variety of snacks including Knicknaks and biltong (pringles are now a cake and should be served alongside the pavlova), sweet chilli sauce and cream cheese dip, good tunes.