South Africa, my home, is an amazing land. Scenic splendour, wild animals, modern cities, wonderful diversity of cultures and people – and braaivleis!
In my country, I am delighted to be the patron of what we call, Braai Day. A braai – that’s B-R-A-A-I – is a uniquely South African social gathering around food that is roasted on an open fire. Americans sometimes display similar behaviour, calling it a barbecue. But it’s not quite the same thing:
The braai, like rugby and sunny skies, is in our DNA.
On September 24th, The New York Times will celebrate Braai Day in the cafeteria, a special lunchtime event hosted by its Diversity & Inclusion group.
Let me tell you something about Braai Day, which is incidentally held each year on Heritage Day in South Africa. It is a public holiday, and across the country South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their multi-cultural heritage, diversity, beliefs and traditions.
I call my country the Rainbow Nation, but it wasn’t always this way. We’ve learned that people who sit down to share a meal together, who talk about their interests while celebrating their differences, are much more likely to build a prosperous future together.
Here in Africa, when we have something to celebrate, we light fires and prepare great feasts. Braai Day is in a sense equivalent to your Thanksgiving.
Now, in order for you to braai authentically, you have got to know some of the lexicon. For a start, we do have some vegans and vegetarians, but to most people the critical part of the braai is the vleis – the meat. Can you say: Boerewors? That’s our special farmer’s sausage. Or, Skilpadjies (tortoises)? These are kidney’s wrapped in bacon.
Although the red meat brigade can be disdainful of fish, regarding it as tantamount to a vegetable, if not worse, a braaied snoek, basted with butter and apricot jam, is regarded as one of the true delicacies of the Cape, where I live.
And in South Africa we eat maize meal, which we call pap and prepare in a variety of wondrous ways. Among my favourites is krummel pap (dry and crumbly cooked maize porridge) with lashings of chakalaka (spicy tomato and onion) sauce.
Braai Day reminds us that our nation belongs to all of its people, and I now cordially invite The New York Times to come together to celebrate this special day with all South Africans. Please rejoice in your own diversity by joining us for lunch on Braai Day.
The Times’ Cultural Festivals are intended to keep the diversity conversation going … all year long. So, come eat with us, let’s talk… God bless you!