For most of South Africa (and the rest of the world, who’re picking up on the significance of the new St. Patrick’s Day), planning National Braai Day doesn’t require too much contemplation. Get a group of mates together round a braai, light the fire, and celebrate being part of the greatest country on earth. But for Jan Braai, it’s an altogether more challenging prospect: on the eve of National Braai Day, Jan had nearly 600 invitations to braais across South Africa, all of them most welcoming.
But with publicity for the big day at a premium, and with a reputation for doing things a little differently, Jan decided to go for something rather special this year: with National Braai Day ambassador Dan Nicholl along for the ride, Jan decided to braai in three cities in one day. It made for a mad dash around South Africa, but did offer the prospect of plenty of fun – and an early call for the opening braai of the day. Which is why Jan and Dan were eating lamb chops at 8 o’clock on Saturday morning…
Jacques Heath, General Manager at Montecasino’s Sunsquare Hotel, hosted a champagne breakfast braai to get the day started. It was the meat, though, rather than the champagne (good as it was) that took centre stage: herb marinated lamb chops and large chunks of fillet steak on the grill, with a chicken done in a seperate coal coal oven that’s Jacque’s pride and joy. Unconventional breakfast? Yes. Enjoyable breakfast? Without question.
With the All Blacks-France World Cup game about to get underway on the big screen at Montecasino’s Bok Town, and plenty of meat (and champagne) going, it would have been very easy to settle in for the day; instead, it was into the waiting Isuzu bakkie, and off to Lanseria for the flight down to Durban, and braai number two.
It was a flight that was almost missed: headed into the airport, Jan bumped into the guys from Aking, the rock stars having just landed to play a National Braai Day gig in Johannesburg. A quick photo shoot, and a promise from Laudo that the band would braai on stage that afternoon, and it was into Lanseria and onto the Kulula flight to Durban – a flight tinged with disappointment.
Despite plenty of pleas on Twitter, Kulula’s flight didn’t have a braai up and running on board; nor did it have wors rolls or sosaties on the menu for the day. Cue a grumpy Dan, and the brilliant suggestion from South African Alan Myburgh, living in Ireland, that the ‘plane be ‘braai-jacked’ as a result; Kulula did reply on Twitter on Monday morning that they’d think about it for 2012, so look out for a braai at 30 000 feet on Braai Day next year.
There wasn’t too much of a wait for more meat, though, as 20 minutes after landing, Jan and Dan were at Bar-Ba-Cao, a new Argentinean restaurant in Umhlanga with an indoor braai that had Jan immediately asking for the blueprint. Steaks went straight onto the fire, and as the pictures above illustrate, they weren’t bad at all…
There was help demolishing the steak (and chops, sosaties and boerewors that Bar-Ba-Cao also produced): former Springbok scrumhalf Craig Davidson and his model wife Melissa, Sharks captain Keegan Daniel and team-mate Ross Skeate, as well as Durban Twitter king Amith Gosai, joined the team for some superb meat, the house label malbec (a steal at R120 a bottle), and Klipdrift Gold to finish off a quick but successful stop off in Durban, hosted by Bar-Ba-Cao owner Mike Myers, who looked a lot different in Austin Powers.
Another great braai down, and it was back to the airport – and for Jan, a quick stop at an Absa ATM to pay our driver. Cue a squeal of delight from Mnr Braai: the screenshot above illustrating Absa’s welcome support for National Braai Day across South Africa.
Then it was onto another flight, this time to Cape Town; did SAA not braai on board either, and Jan and Dan also bumped into a couple of very grumpy English tourists who clearly hadn’t been invited to a braai. 2012 will see the National Braai Day extend to disadvantaged communities like England to teach them to braai; if any further endorsement for the joy and celebration of National Braai Day was needed, then stop number three at Mzoli’s delivered a resounding illustration of all that’s great about South Africa, and celebrating Braai Day.
Mzoli’s is the home of Chisa Nyama in Cape Town, a Cape Town institution that’s braai, shebeen, cafe, dancefloor and community centre all rolled into one, with Gugulethu’s unofficial mayor, Mzoli, watching over his extraordinary operation. And what a place it was to visit on National Braai Day: crammed with people swaying to music, sharing drinks, and revelling in meat spiced with Mzoli’s famous sauce, this was the definite highlight of the day, South Africa’s myriad cultures coming together around a communal fire in shared celebration of the joy of being South African.
There was still time for one final braai, and Jan and Dan saw out Saturday beneath an iconic landmark: Table Mountain, the backdrop for the last braai of a long but wonderful day. With Liezel van der Westhuizen amongst the familiar faces dropping by, and a pile of Cape Town locals joining the party, the sun set on Blouberg over yet more revelry – as it did across a country that, judging by the three cities Jan and Dan visited, continues to embrace National Braai Day with the energy and enthusiasm South Africans are famous for the world over. The only question left to answer? What will Jan and Dan do to go one better in 2012…