FIRE STARTERS

Woolworths TASTE - - Editor's Letter -

I LOVE A TRA­DI­TIONAL BRAAI as much as the next soutie, but there is some­thing to be said for mak­ing new tra­di­tions. As with al­most every other South African of my gen­er­a­tion, re­gard­less of her­itage, when I was grow­ing up Sun­day lunch was an ex­tended fam­ily event. And in our case, it was very of­ten a braai at my grand­par­ents’ house. This was my mother’s child­hood home, with cit­rus trees in the court­yard, a col­lec­tion of German beer mugs in the din­ing room and, once, an im­pres­sive haul of live cray­fish in the out­side bath­room.

This was also the 80s, which means the men stood around pok­ing the coals, drink­ing Cas­tle lager and burn­ing the chicken, while the women sat un­der a grapevine in the back­yard drink­ing gin and ton­ics (I hope) and swat­ting the kids. I don’t re­mem­ber much about the food.

It was prob­a­bly stan­dard soutie bringand-braai fare – chicken, boere­wors, lamb chops if some­one was feel­ing flush, potato salad, a but­tered baguette and a non­de­script salad of ice­berg let­tuce and floury toma­toes. Dessert would have been a prop­erly Roald Dahl af­fair – ei­ther Aunt Terry’s tri­fle or Aunt Tr­ish’s pep­per­mint crisp pud­ding.

It was only when I moved out of home that my best friend and house­mate, Lisa, taught me the real art of the braai. All we had was a rusty, se­cond-hand We­ber and some se­ri­ously bad crock­ery, but those were some of the best braais of my life. Lisa could grill even the cheap­est cut to per­fec­tion, though more of­ten than not our braai menu con­sisted of stuffed but­ter­nut, sweet pota­toes and onions cooked whole in the coals and a green salad with my mother’s gar­licky-yo­ghurt dress­ing.

Back then, when we had lit­tle money and a lot of fem­i­nist, veg­e­tar­ian friends, it was easy to em­brace Michael Pollan’s fa­mous sum­ma­tion of food and health: “Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants.” Now, iron­i­cally, eat­ing a healthy, largely plant-based diet is con­sid­ered ex­pen­sive. Then, it was our way of life.

Af­ter the lean years, I spent al­most all of my thir­ties liv­ing alone, which meant I had to learn to braai with­out Lisa, with­out the Cas­tledrink­ing men, and with­out fear. It was pretty lib­er­at­ing. I per­fected my own braai tra­di­tions – a but­ter­flied leg of lamb (easier than turn­ing 25 drum­sticks while try­ing to hold a con­ver­sa­tion and keep track of one’s Sauvi­gnon Blanc), my mother’s un­ri­valled potato gratin, Nigella’s Egyp­tian tomato salad, but­tered green beans, maybe a bowl of tzatziki and, in the early years, of­ten a pavlova for dessert.

The thing about food tra­di­tions is that they’re made that way through con­stant rep­e­ti­tion, across gen­er­a­tions. Which is how they be­come leg­endary. The recipes in Phillippa Cheifitz’s story, “Plates from the past” (page 98), are a case in point. In the words of the clas­sic Cas­tle lager cam­paign, they have stood the test of time.

“I LOVE THE IDEA OF CRE­AT­ING NEW TRA­DI­TIONS – IN 50 YEARS, THESE COULD

BE THE NEW CLASSICS”

My sis­ter, Romy, and my hus­band, the Salad Dodger, are both staunch tra­di­tion­al­ists with a shared aver­sion to any clas­sic recipe that is “messed with” in any way. Re­cently, an ap­ple crum­ble with the ad­di­tion of caramelised pineap­ple sparked out­rage, so I’m ex­pect­ing that Han­nah’s gar­lic bread with pa­prika but­ter (page 79) will be chal­leng­ing for them. I can’t imag­ine that Abi­gail’s bean burger (page 25) is go­ing to get a warm re­cep­tion at our next braai ei­ther, but that’s how I roll.

I love the idea of cre­at­ing new tra­di­tions, the way Mo­gau Seshoene does with her Sun­day lunch (page

68). In 50 years, these could be the new classics, the new le­gends.

And we were there.

Fol­low me on In­sta­gram @KateWil­sonZA

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