History of Braai

What is a Braai?

Braaiing is South Africa’s premier social occasion. South Africans will organise a braai at the drop of a hat. And they go to great lengths to do it. Even the national heritage day was renamed National Braai Day at the initiative of the world-famousbraai-master Jan Braai. South Africans take off work and school every 24 September to celebrate the enormous diversity of their many cultures, traditions and languages. To underline the strength andbeauty of what they call their ‘rainbow nation’, the former Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been the patron of this national event for years.

You can organise a braai anywhere. A braai means fun, adventure and delicious food all in one. A pure experience you share with friends and family.

Cooking food on coals is as old as mankind. However, the braai has been raised to an art in the vast expanses of South Africa. It is an essential part of South Africa’s history and food culture. Fortunately, real braai enthusiasts are now found worldwide.

A perfect braai begins with a good fire and good company. You create a beautiful fire from logs together. A braai is so much more than a barbecue where you just heat some coals and grill some meat. With a braai you take your time, for your fire, for your dishes and especially for the people around you.

You might choose meat, poultry, fish or vegetables, pure or marinated. Everything that comes off the braai is a special delicacy. Moreover, the companionship provides that extra flavour. You sit around the fire together and enjoy each other’s company. You actually watch the food being cooked with a drink in hand and good conversation. In addition, when the real enjoyment begins, you heat up the coals to create an atmospheric open fire.

Braai – The History

Legend has it that the first braais were created by accident. Life changed dramatically when early man could make his own fire. Along with warmth and safety, a fire also offered the ability to prepare food differently. Until then primitive people had eaten the food they found or the meat they captured, raw.

Then came the moment that someone dropped a piece of meat in the fire and discovered that this roasted meat was far tastier. It was also far easier to chew and digest. And thus was born the principle of the braai.

It is no coincidence that the first traces of primitive man and fire were discovered in South Africa. In the dark caves near Sterkfontein, scientists found traces showing that the first humans lived there more than a million years ago, and that they already used a primitive form of braai. Among other things, this was apparent from the remains of antelope bones that had clearly been in the fire.

After this first primitive start, the braai grew to become a national tradition in South Africa. Both the country’s original inhabitants and the farmers who arrived later contributed to the phenomenon that is today’s braai. Regardless of background, people gathered around the braai to meet and eat. People shared the latest news and told their stories around the fire. Today’s braai differs little in essence. In fact, the braai is a unifying factor in a country with such a diverse population. Everyone puts their own spin on the braai, and everyone has their own way of creating a fantastic fire-based meal. Anything is fine as long as everyone has a good time and eats well. The fact that South Africa is the only country in the world to hold a National Braai Day underlines  the importance of this cultural and social heritage.

The braai is so much more than a method of cooking; it is part of the national identity. It has been for years, and always will be.