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south african braai

The Subtle Magic of a South African Braai

Lane A
by Lane Atteridge

March 28, 2018

If you travel to South Africa, you'll find a tradition somehow oddly familiar but altogether new at the same time - the braai. In Afrikaans, braai means simply "grilled meat," which makes sense because the closest analog to the South African braai is the barbeque. All the same ingredients are here, the taste of roasted meats, the sounds of conversation and laughter, the presence of friends. But although everything feels the same, everything feels different.

A South African tradition

South Africa puts its own magical spin on everything that it touches. Instead of beer, most people will be drinking wine from the world-famous South African vineyards that dot the countryside. There'll be beef on the grill, but it will be alongside lamb, sausage, and maybe even some more exotic game meats. The camaraderie found at the braai seems to mean more, somehow. The deeply ingrained traditions of coming together around the fire pit have been part of this culture since the beginning.

Bringing people together

Young or old, rich or poor, political differences, none of these things matter. The braai gathers everyone together. The delicious scents of barbecued meats and vegetables will be wafting through the air. People that have known each other for years will sit down and catch up. New acquaintances will share stories over glasses of wine and find that, by the end of the night, they've truly become friends. As late afternoon becomes night, it will seem like nothing is different and everything has changed.

That subtle magic

That is the subtle magic of the braai, the alchemy working over the crowd gathered under the starry night sky. If you've ventured to this country from the Northern Hemisphere, even the stars, something that everyone is familiar with, are just slightly different in South Africa. Those constellations are different here, down in the Southern Hemisphere - the perfect metaphor for the braai. Something that seems so familiar, but different and uniquely special.

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