Many things keep us apart in this funny old world of ours. Cricket or baseball? Pineapple on pizza: Delicious or an abomination?
But there is one thing that brings South Africans – and everyone else – together:
Everyone loves a braai
It’s pronounced ‘brrr-eye,’ and it means to cook – usually meat, but not just meat – over an open fire.
In real life, though, it also means all the things that you do while you’re braaing. Like being together with your friends and family, enjoying the outdoors with them, or just plain kuiering with them. (Kay-er-ring. Afrikaans: hanging out. Only more so.)
It’s nothing new, but it is inclusive. Everyone knows that our ancestors cooked their meat over open fires, but recent finds in South Africa’s Border Cave – a Middle Stone Age rock shelter in the Lebombo Mountains, near eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) – have revealed that they were braaing vegetables on them, too. And that they were doing it as much as 170,000 years ago. (Scientists Find Early Evidence of Humans Cooking Starches ~ Scientific American, June, 2019.See also our postscript below: Defining the menu)
And yes, while some people do have elaborate indoor braai rooms in their homes, most South Africans prefer to braai outdoors.
And some, like us here at Easy Five, have the best of both worlds, with our own thatched, poolside, outdoor entertainment area – or lapa – that surrounds our braai (BBQ) fireplace like a cozy cocoon created specifically for turning strangers into friends.
Easy Five, easy braai
Our lapa is the centre of social life here at Easy Five, and we often see disparate groups of guests coming together over a braai.
Take for instance the Christmas we had five Swedes, four French, three Dutch, two Swiss and a Brit staying with us: We had multilingual braais most nights, and it wasn’t unusual to see the little Dutch kid and the two little French girls huddling together on our swing-chair over a shared tablet – but no shared language.
The whole process of braaing has even been known to force change at Easy Five: One group of four families who stayed with us – and also braaied with us most nights – mentioned that they loved playing bocce, and did we have a set?
It was something we’d always intended to get, once we’d built a proper bocce court. But we went ahead and bought a set of balls anyway, and the families played relentlessly while they braaied. They didn’t need a court; they used the lawn, and now we have the balls for other guests, too.
And the court – another opportunity to socialise? We’ll be building that soon.
Guests love our braai
When it comes to braaing, don’t just take our word for it: our guest, Chris Moore, said that his group of 13 Canadians and Americans stayed with us when the came to Cape Town because they saw Easy Five as a place where they could “sit around and talk, play games, socialise, swim, and have room for our kids to explore without getting in the way of other guests.”
They hadn’t been expecting to braai, though.
“To be perfectly honest, the braai and lapa didn’t even register with us when we made the booking, as the rooms, open space, and pool piqued our interest.
“It wasn’t until we checked in and Francis and Linda showed us around and explained the braai and lapa that we thought we’d struck gold.
“Our overall experience at Easy Five was magnified tenfold by the availability of these features.
“We spent seven nights there, and I think we used the braai for family-style dinners on five of them.
“The ability to go to a market or store and buy top-quality food and wine, and to eat it communally around the pool under the stars without having to worry about who was going to be the designated driver, or about finding a restaurant that would cater to everyone’s palates, was in every sense priceless.
“Linda and Francis are both incredibly knowledgeable about where to go to get certain things and how to cook them the South African way over the fire.”
Christoph and Renate Dürkes-Aschoff, who have been visiting South Africa from Germany for many years, and who “love traveling, golfing, cycling, hiking, skiing – still very active at an advanced age,” said that, “Francis’s braai is always something very special. We enjoyed his expertise with our requests and wishes for rock lobster.” (Or, in South African – crayfish. See below.)
“Francis is the perfect host in preparing the fire with logs of wood to ensure the correct glow.”
Asked about their experience of our braais, they said, “The ambience at Easy Five is so very special.” They loved the lapa “in the setting of this wonderfully maintained and cared for garden beside the swimming pool, with candle light and noises from African birds.”
And, like everyone who’s ever enjoyed one, they loved the braai, too.
What will you braai at Easy Five?
The braai menu
Haha! Menu? Don’t joke! You don’t need a menu. You can – as we say in SA – throw anything on a braai.
- Sosaties – block cuts of lamb, for example, mounted on wooden skewers between slices of onion and bell pepper, and marinated in the braaier’s secret sauce (there’s always a secret sauce);
- Meat – usually the better cuts, but not, say, your Sunday roast;
- Chicken – in pieces or, if you’ve got a kettle braai, cooked whole. Francis’s new favourite way of braaing chicken is to spatchcock — that is, cut out the backbone and lie flat — the whole chicken and grill it perfectly with a couple of coatings of spicy peri-peri sauce slathered on towards the end;
- Seafood – especially (here in the Western Cape Province) shellfish like crayfish or mussels. And Francis has a fish-shaped grill rack specially to accommodate whole fish like snapper;
- Jacket potatoes – wrapped in foil, baked in the ashes, and served with massive amounts of butter or cream- or yoghurt-based dressings;
- Mielies – corn on the cob. Cooked on the grill or in foil, and served with the same dressings. And/or extra virgin olive oil with crushed salt and cracked pepper;
- Rooseterkoek – traditional white bread rolls, baked in the ashes;
- Braai broodjies – white bread sandwiches filled with cheese and tomatoes and maybe some onions, and smeared on the outside with butter, and then toasted over the fire. The kids love these, especially when the adults are kuiering too hard, and they’re gettin’ ravenous;
- And almost anything else you can think of.