The braai (pronounced "bri" as in short for "Brian") is not so much a barbeque as a South African institution.

The word is Afrikaans, but the braai culture extends beyond the Afrikaners to all South Africans. Use of the word "barbeque" in South Africa is likely to raise inquiring eyebrows.

A child of an Afrikaans father and an English mother, I was raised on weekly sunday braais. Usually we were the hosts, for we lived in seaside Glencairn with a big garden and a swimming pool, but mostly we were the hosts because my father is a stay-at-home and our weekly guests are sticklers for the Sunday Drive.

A braai is not at all like a dinner party around an outside fire. The host is not expected to provide the food: it is very much a subsistence thing. The guests are expected to provide their own meat and a salad. A trip to the supermarket on the way over is the norm: do not bring things pre-prepared, unless you're told to do so. Bring your own alcohol too. (Beer for the men, wine for the ladies.)

Upon arrival, you will be met and greeted and expected to make yourself feel at home. The children will be ushered off to be seen but not heard, which means playing noisily out of earshot. Any transgressions and they'll meet with the rigid Afrikaner raised-by-the-belt discipline. Men are to report directly to the fireside while the women must gather in the kitchen. The women may only join the fireside gathering to bring their husbands a beer. Similarly, the men will only move into the kitchen to say "Skattie, get us another beer, man" (which translates as "I love you and thank you for looking after me so well").

Observe these rules and the Braai Gods will see to it that the meat and salads are ready with precise coordination.

Around the fireside, one of the men will dominate. He is not necessarily the best cook, so the others will keep their watchful eyes on their own meat and remove theirs from the heat or add them as and when necessary. You take responsibility for your own meat, though the dominant male will certainly cook yours should you choose to leave it in his not-necessarily-capable hands.

A similar pattern will be unfolding in the kitchen, though the spirit of competition is less fierce, probably a result of the fact that it is damn hard to mess up a salad. Generally, one woman will fall into making the green salad while another gets busy on the pap. Pap or stywe pap (stiff porridge) is an African dish of maize meal that the Zulu nannies passed onto the children they raised. It is corn meal and water, cooked to a stiff texture, eaten with the fingers (as is everything else at the braai, except perhaps the salad) and dipped in the juice of the meat. There is no such thing as a vegetarian Afrikaner, but those damn Souties (Englishmen) are infiltrating and nowadays its also acceptable to eat pap with chakalaka (tomato based sauce with onion and a heavy dose of chili).

Out of earshot, the older children will be taunting, teasing and generally beating up the younger ones. At random intervals, some of the smallest will burst into tears and head for the kitchen (never the fireside), but usually they will fend for themselves. This is why Afrikaners are sick, perverted bastards, and invented racism and apartheid to kick the black baffoon dogs. If they had been raised in peaceful loving everybody-stand-in-a-circle-and-hug culture, South Africa would have been a beautiful, safe, peaceful country from the outset.

You will sometimes hear a braai referred to as a bring-and-braai, which is testamony to the hijacking of the braai by English-speaking South Africans.

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