The Braai Lifestyle

The memories evoked by familiar smells are extremely powerful. One whiff and you’re transported to a different time and place.

Earlier this year I made my first ever visit to Twickenham, the home of English rugby. It was the final of the European club championship, and although both the traditional broadsheets and the red masthead tabloids had predicted the rugby would be dull fare with a poor crowd turnout, they were wrong on both counts.

The rugby was scintillating, with athleticism and brutal contact galore on display, and some amazing tries scored by finalists Clermont-Auvergne and eventual winners Toulon. Twickenham was possibly only 80 percent full but the legions of enthusiastic French rugby fans displayed a passion that was infectious. They waved their flags and sang for the full 80 minutes. It also helped that South African players were also on the field – one for Clermont and three in the Toulon team!

A few things stood out for me: one was the 30 seconds of spine-tingling, hair-raising ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, England’s home ground anthem, which reverberated around the cauldron; and the second was how nostalgic and patriotic I felt a few hundred metres from the stadium when I saw the green and gold Springbok emblem, and smelled the distinctive aroma of boerewors being braaied!

Apparently that boerewors roll outlet is legendary and has been a fixture at Twickenham matches for years. Winemaking friends of mine who’ve attended internationals and other games there assure me that it’s popular among expat and homesick South Africans, English supporters, Aussies, Kiwis … any rugby fans, in fact. Even South African players involved in the matches have been known to stop in for a fix of the South African version of a hot dog!

It’s not just the coiled ‘farmer’s sausage’ which is so beloved of South Africans. It’s the ritual of making the fire, be it in a purpose-built pit, a gleaming stainless-steel version, sawed-off oil drum or even an enamelled kettle braai, then watching and waiting for the coals to form and be deemed just the right temperature for the steak, lamb chops or ribs.

Warnings are currently in place as the northern hemisphere enjoys a record-breakingly warm summer. Tube users in London are advised to carry water, while tennis players at Wimbledon had to deal with temperatures of 41C on court. At the southern tip of Africa, wet and cold winter weather is no deterrent to the enjoyment of a braai – if anything, it’s a challenge to red-blooded South African males to prove just how tough and hardcore they are!

While those in the UK enjoy the balmy days, secure in the knowledge that they can make a fire and successfully grill a few sausages without being rained on as they sip on a Sauvignon Blanc or some such, South Africans simply retreat to the indoor ‘binnebraai’, or choose to brave the elements armed with hearty reds or sweeter style muscadel, jerepiko or even the Portuguese-style fortifieds which Calitzdorp producers have shown themselves adept at making.

Be it at Twickenham on a spring afternoon or in icy Paarl with snow on the peaks of the surrounding mountains, there is still nothing in the world like the smell of boerewors being braaied.

– Fiona McDonald


Pages taken from Braai Masters of the Cape Winelands

To buy the book click HERE