It's that time of the year again, when every South African comes together to eat, celebrate life and to fellowship around the braai. It's Heritage Day a.k.a National Braai Day.
Now it may as well be every South African’s birth right to braai, but as we all know so well, hosting a successful braai isn't always as easy as it looks. Braaing like a champ on the other hand? Well that’s an entirely different art on its own. Careful consideration needs to be taken into account when dealing with sufficient preparation in order to allow the true spirit of braaing to come through on the day. At the heart of every braai is a gathering of friends and family, coming together to not only eat amazing food, but to chat while laughing and catching up with loved ones. So, in order to not get distracted on the big day, we've put together a few tips to help you braai like a champ:
If you're going to be braaing with wood, coal or even gas, be sure to double check that your stash is fully topped up (that includes fire-lighters!), so you don’t run out on the day. This may sound simple and obvious to most of us, but let’s be honest… with the demands and pressures of today’s lifestyle, it’s all too easy to forget or be distracted and take for granted the most fundamental building blocks of braaing.
As the fire gets started, make sure half an onion is on hand to get rid of any unwanted grease or grime on your grill, allowing the flames to purge off the remainder. Keeping a bottle of water close by will also help keep those over eager flames at bay, as well as periodically squeezing lemon onto the grill, meat and flames whilst cooking. This will help with moderating both temperature and flavour.
All meat requiring marinade should be prepared the night before, as to allow the flavours to develop and avoid any further delays on the day. Remember, braaing like a champ also requires you to feel like you’re on top of your game, so pre-preparations can go a long way to preventing any unnecessary distractions.
Location, location, location! Once it has been decided that you will be hosting the braai, choosing a suitable location to braai on your property (if you don’t have one built-in) is of the utmost importance. Make sure that you have taken into consideration that wherever you decide to set up the braai, pets, children, neighbours and even your property are at risk when an open fire is present. With this in mind, keep a hose-pipe ready and attached, along with a fire extinguisher and a bucket of sand in case of any unforeseen emergencies. Once that's sorted, make sure sunblock is applied if necessary and keep your drink topped up and on ice, ready for a good time!
Ready the house
Keep in mind that hosting a braai may also require you to prepare your house and property for receiving guests. This may include prior-arrangements for any additional safe parking as to put your guests’ minds at ease and allowing them to enjoy themselves. Be sure not to forget extra loo-rolls, as no-one likes running out at a braai! Place fresh hand-towels and hand soap in the guest loo, as every guest invited will most certainly be making their way there at some point of the day, so keep them refreshed and smiling.
At social gatherings, it's the small things or attention to detail that make a world of a difference, so be sure to stock up on serviettes, tooth-picks, ice and extra lemon for those thirst-quenching G&T's! Even though the braaing will be happening outside, neglecting the inside of your home will only be to the detriment of yourself and your guests’ experience.
Anyone can bring a packet of chips to a braai, and if you're lucky, maybe even a dip! But if you're braaing like a champ, you'll go that extra mile and have healthier alternatives like a platter of carrot and cucumber strips with some homemade hummus.
Cutting up some thinly sliced steak and wors pieces on a wooden board or platter with salt and sauce is also a great way of tantalizing those taste buds without fulling the bellies of your guests. A lot of people may even skip breakfast knowing that a feast awaits them later on, and so providing guests with that little extra thoughtful loving care may go a long way in keeping the peace as the meat is slowly being cooked! Remember, a quick braai usually means burnt meat, so take your time and allow the snacks to full tummies in the interim!
A diverse yet inclusive playlist of easy listening songs with a couple of your favourite tracks not only promotes an atmosphere of comfort, but one of personality. Like inviting good mates around, music at the right volume and tempo can be a source of joy and relaxation, but too loud or too exclusive and you'll only be catering to the unique tastes of a few!
The same applies to seating arrangements pre-meal time. A disjointed or exclusive group of people can risk the trap of welcomed guests feeling awkward, lonely and out of place. Social anxiety is a real thing, and putting your guests at ease before eating is all part of braaing like a champ. Also consider whoever will be doing the braaing during this process, and to include them in any of the circles of conversations happening. More often than not, they're usually isolated and this can be avoided by simply having a few upfront creative ideas around seating and mingling.
With the fires being stoked all over the country on Heritage Day, a few helpful tips and friendly reminders might go a long way to your home becoming known as something more than just another place to have a braai. Rather may it be a welcoming home filled with love, laughter and a whole lot more than just another good time. We'll drink to that, cheers!