J. Something – Live And Let Braai
- Something’s number one braai ingredient.
- The one pastime that unites the whole country.
- Food – the preserver of heritage.
- How J. Something spends Heritage/Braai Day.
To celebrate the diverse cultures and traditions that make up South Africa, the first annual Heritage Day was held in 1995. Coinciding with the public holiday, from the early 2000’s, National Braai Day gained momentum, marking South Africa’s culinary tradition of gathering round a fire to cook. From festivals, competitions and TV shows, like The Ultimate Braai Master, braai-ing is such a part of South African culture that every province has its own nuances and secrets. In the interests of our collective heritage, The Wire spoke to the ever-talented, award-winning vocalist and renowned chef and restaurateur, J. Something, about how he celebrates the South African culinary tradition of “Braai Day”.
The Wire: Name one ingredient that your braai can’t go without.
Something: Lemon. There is nothing like a squeeze of lemon over your meat/vegetables after they’ve been perfectly cooked on the braai! It just brings everything to life on another level. Acidity is magic when it comes to food.
TW: What does your ideal braai look like?
J.S: Braai-ing is a very popular method of cooking in our house. I’ll do anything from baby chicken to lamb ribs, sardines, cauliflower or even a shakshuka with some roosterbrood. Along with Portuguese Baby Chicken with a piri piri oil done on the stove top, the ultimate braai is some langoustine tails with a fresh herb, garlic, beer, and butter sauce over the coals. Some cold Stella always at hand.
TW: How will you be spending your Heritage/Braai Day?
J.S: In our house we are Portuguese and Tswana so we try and celebrate our heritage through food as well as coming around the table to purposefully talk about our upbringing and the things we believe are of value and which can help shape us to be better human beings. My favourite thing about this day in my home is the mix of food. You will find my mother-in-law’s creamy samp and oxtail stew and then, on the same table, grilled sardines and a roast pepper salad. Getting to hear the delight in both our cultures being enjoyed is what makes me happy! Food is the hero, and the most incredible preserver of heritage.
TW: If you could have any two guests at your braai, who would it be?
J.S: For some reason I automatically think of David Higgs because when it comes to meat and fire there is no one I would run to for advice other than him. Secondly, I’d want my brother to be there, just because I miss him. He lives in Portugal and a braai is something he loves.
TW: What does heritage mean to you?
J.S: It really has been a question that I have challenged myself on over the last two years. I used to just go with surface level answers to this type of question or moments – simply that we all braai and have a lekker moment around the fire and food. But honestly, life’s too short to live on the surface, so lately I’ve been trying to dig deeper. While heritage is something that has huge importance to me, it can also box one in so you have be balanced. I am more than being just Portuguese.
My identity doesn’t lie solely on that and what I am constantly trying to do is admire and study the cultures and history of ‘my’ people as well as spend a lot of time studying others around me. I like to believe that we are all unique and individually have so many stories. In the same breath, I believe we have so much in common too. I take a lot of pride in being part of humanity, and we can really celebrate our collective heritage by learning more about one another. So, for this Heritage Day, why not cook only Basotho dishes and learn how to greet someone in that language and find a story to share around the table about the people and Basotho culture. Next year, try another one of our many cultures in South Africa and explore! So much is out there – we just need to get past the surface.
C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.
WHERE TO FIND US
SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER