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The braai chronicles – Part 1

It may be a perfectly natural weekend ritual to us, but the South African braai is going to seem pretty odd in time to come.

by: David Bullard | 22 Mar 2007

In the year 2735 AD, a group of Chinese property developers decided to build a new mega-city on the desolate wasteland once known as Egoli, the legendary city of gold.

Due to a rapidly growing population and dwindling resources at home, the Chinese had moved to South Africa in the early part of the second millennium – here and there an immigrant family, then a few more relatives and then a few more until, within 150 years, the South African population and culture had become predominantly Chinese.

Pagodas had been added to the corners of the Union Buildings in Pretoria and an emperor ruled the land. The inhabitants of South Africa, at that time, had welcomed the Chinese invaders, who came bearing gifts of cheap cell phone covers, dried shark fins, boxes of egg noodles and tins of water chestnuts.

And, as the indigenous people of South Africa became immersed in the Asian culture of their new rulers, so they gradually let their own traditional cultural values die.

The lunar-powered robotic arm of the bulldozer grazed the top of the earth of what was once Germiston and scooped some soil away. After about 10 minutes of mechanised digging, the bulldozer stopped work and alerted security.

Below the surface its sensors had detected a small metallic object that, according to the law, had to be investigated by government archaeologists in case it gave a clue as to the lives of South Africans living in the early part of the second millennium.

The small metal object was carefully lifted from its resting place of over 700 years. It was made of iron and steel and had four legs, one at each corner. A metal mesh covered a deep tray filled with all sorts of sticky gunge that exhaustive tests revealed to be burnt animal matter, charcoaled cigarette butts.

In the following few days, hundreds of similar artefacts were discovered, some with domed lids, some with different mesh designs or folding legs, but all apparently serving the same mysterious purpose and all dated by computer as having coming from the Madiba period of between 1990 and 2020.

The find puzzled the Chinese anthropologists, who guessed that the artefacts might have had some sort of religious connotation. It wasn't until a scholar unearthed and translated a work called Oom Hennie's Outdoor Entertaining that the true mystery of the South African braai and its social importance was revealed to the Chinese of the year 2735.

It was probably the most exciting archaeological find of its day, ranking in importance with Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. Perfectly preserved documents from the second millennium were found in excavated dentists' waiting rooms that finally enabled the archaeologists and anthropologists to assemble the pieces of the complex puzzle and come up with the following hypothesis...

The people of the Madiba period of South Africa's history were strange. Even though they had air-conditioned houses and perfectly well-equipped kitchens, many preferred to cook their food outside. It may have been because they didn't know how to work their ovens or it may have been because they didn’t want the smells and spills of cooking to spoil their nice, fitted kitchens.

They were a very house-proud people and often built beautiful mansions, which appeared in what were known as 'glossy magazines'. This was so less fortunate people could look upon their magnificent homes and envy them.

The outdoor cooking ritual known as the ‘ South African braai’ had a rigid social structure. It seems likely that they were quasi-religious events. In those days, men worshipped as gods other men who could kick a large ball over a pole or hit a small ball with a plank of wood.

These religious feast days were often accompanied by comments from the worshippers concerning the suitability of a particular man to be a god and whether he shouldn't be dropped.

So we learn that gods of the time had a short shelf life and that it was mortal man, and not the gods, who was omnipotent. This paradoxical state of affairs had no effect on the continued worship of men-gods by their fellow men, but, unlike in Roman times, if you got fed up with your god you just got a new one.

Part 2 of the braai chronicles will concentrate on the role of woman


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