Back in the old days, when a braai was just a bunch of guys burning the meat they had just shot, there were no such things as salads, pink wine and pasta.
In a real mans braai, salt was the salad, maybe with some baked beans and bread thrown in.
Because there were no women around, the guys used to talk an immense amount of kak en poes 'n naai.
Then they would drink brandy and coke out of two different bottles and see who could piss the furthest, fart the loudest and man stuff like that.
After the first round of meat was finished, there would be some shooting at empty or full beer bottles, making the fire very big, or burning some plastic bottles in aseparatefire .
Aseparatefire can be a very dangerous thing at a braai however.
The reason is because as everyone gets more pissed and stoned, more and more things are found to put into theseparatefire.
These can include paint and oil aerosol cans of all descriptions and any wood, old chairs or new tables and pianos.
Trust me, I have seen a piano burnt at a braai before in that evil separate fire.
Normally these kinds of man braai's are the best, but the clean up the next morning with a hangover is somewhat tedious and painful.
So quality man-braai's should be ones that have been planned while sober, leaving the cleaning up to the hired help and women the next morning.
But things have changed since those more pure and innocent times, and those long ago man braai's went the way of the 8 track tape and evolved into 'the married/divorced and onto the second husband/wife braai's.'
While SA can't claim to be in the first to burn meat, I can say that SA perfected the art of the segregation of the sexes when braaing.
And fortunately, the "Man Circle" has survived.
All men around the fire form a "mental/physical fire barrier '
The barrier makes a round circle around the fire that excludes any women while the fire is being started and man talk is being bandied around.
Fire, after all, was invented by a man and to this day remains a mans right to make- right?
Wise and experienced males will have erected a few camping tables around the male perimeter so that the ladies can put the salads and stuff somewhere safely, and at the same time be excluded in that first crucial hour of fire making, when male bonding is at it's most concentrated.
In the same vein, while the man-fire is being made, the ladies are often in the kitchen of the parent house and are busy getting tipsy on champagne and pink wine and preparing salads and twirly pasta things.
Sometimes dirty jokes and raucous, screeching type of laughter can also be heard there.
Sometimes wine in the kitchen and brandy and coke ( known as spook 'n diesel in SA ) at the fire lead to some exciting endings of the braai amongst married couples.
A friend of mine always recommends a spliff at this time to cool things down, and indeed, it works on most occasions.
So when one is invited to a braai these days, and it's mixed sexes, it's moer-of important to enter the place in the right manner.
Hubby drives up the drive way and parks amongst the cars already there.
He gets out, after having opened the boot from the inside of the car and picks up the 25kg bag of hardekool.
Hardekool is an african hard wood and is the preferred man-brand of wood.
It comes from the Lead wood tree family and burns long and strong and imparts an african flavour to the meat that cannot be imitated by other more inferior woods.
Kameeldoring is also acceptable to bring to the fire, but does not carry the same trent as harde kool.
Every now and then, some father Grundy brings a bag of brickets or charcoal.
This is seriously naff and he is thanked profusely and the bag is shifted to the separate fire. (see above)
The newly arrived real-man in the meantime has reached the physical man-barrier perimeter and has deposited his hardekool onto the pile of wood brought by the other guys.
Now, when a guy pitches up to a fire and his manne buddies are standing around, and as he cracks his first swallow of an ice cold frostie, it tastes like the first one, even though he has had a couple before he arrived.
That first gulp lubricates his vocal chords and raises his testosterone level and then there is a lot of man talk amongst the men.
"Howzit my china" or "Wat sê jy"? or " Hoe gannit boet?" are standard South African greeting rituals.
( ED-- china (s) is SA slang for a male mate(s) or buddy(s)-- "Wat sê jy"? What you saying? (answer as in 'all cool dude')-- Hoe gannit, boet?-- How is it going for you, my brother ? )
His wife, all the while, has been fiddling in the backseat of the car, rearranging plates of salad that have bliksemed over onto the floor when he had to brake hard for a taxi bus stopping in the middle of the road to pick up passengers.
Then all the other chicks come out the house, and after all the kissing and hugging and stuff has finished, they all carry the plates back into the kitchen.
Generally then they taste and mix and taste some more and then drink wine and gossip women stuff .
Sometimes the party girls tell jokes in the kitchen too.
Jokes are always good in the first crucial hour of man-fire making.
But be careful, if you tell it kak or forget the punchline, you get mocked the whole evening and your reputation is ruined for the night.
Another thing is when you at a multi national braai with people of different cultures and all that,
Don't tell jokes.
No matter how pissed the people are.
To many unexploded race/religion/political bombs there.
Also, jokes with women around and without women around, are very, very different.
A wise joke teller lowers his pussy content appropriately to the company.
This content can be increased as the evening goes on, but be warned, no matter how much the jokes are appreciated by the tipsy chicks, there will always be one or two bags sitting on the sidelines and not laughing.
The klooster koekies ( Mother Grundy's ) of every braai.
Mother Grundy's are easy to spot at a braai.
The female will have the car packed by nine o clock and will be sitting at the outer perimeter table drinking water.
She will be sitting next to her party friend, who's car is also packed, and be commenting on the behavior of the fire circle of friends with tight lips and rolled up eyes.
Father Grundies ( Naffs) are also easy to see because they still have clean hands at nine 'o clock, so they picked up no wood or chopped up things.
Generally, they also don't say shit, except hello and goodbye and stand slightly out side the circle wearing checked shirts and chinos with pleats.
They are a sorry lot, more so if the are married to the party chick.
Slowly, as the fire starts to come of age, the most important man thing starts.
The burning of meat.
It is a strong bonding experience, and in the man circle, the burning of meat can be much discussed.
About how this or that steak is doing and the pedigree of the boerewors, ( home made sausage particular to South Africa ) how it was made and what spices are used, etc, etc..
The highest alocades of manliness are recieved when you make your own boerewors and bring it to the fire
That's like bringing Kudu fillets to the fire... serious, serious trent. ( trent means street cred )
What also gives serious trent at a fire is if you slaughtered your own animal.
Being able to say that you killed and cut up the beast and you brought your burden of chops and rump and fillet to the fire for all to consume is akin to the hunter creed of yore, and carries a shit house full of trent.
Just don't ever, ever bring crap meat to the braai, bru, 'cause you will never live it down, and even your wife will be looked on with suspicion and fear.
This brings up another point.
In many SA braai's there is a " Braai Master".
He is the one who is in control of the burning process.
In mixed braai's this is a welcome thing, since the main man is not going to make a gat (ass) of himself screwing the meat up in front of the women.
In single sex male braai's, however, the dynamics change somewhat.
The reason for this is that if there is one 'braai master', one runs the risk of him becomingtiredbecause of the spook and diesel and becoming unresponsive to the screams of the burning meat.
When one is part of an experienced circle of braai friends, there is actually not one guy who is in charge.
It's more a matter of "Fuuuuuck, who is flying this ship??, Oh it's me, Okay, I'll see what I can do."
An experienced circle of braai friends has one ( or two or three ) pyromaniacs who sort of check that the fire is cool while also keeping theseparatefire going.
Others comment on the state of the steak, offer beer if the fire starts burning too hot and stamp out errant coals....a very important thing if you don't want to set the fracking neighborhood alight.
And believe me, nothing like a light wind, a dry grass veld in the dusk of a south african winter with a spark from the fire to screw the evening up good and proper.
Also, a collective eye works better, especially if there is a spliff doing the rounds.
This mellows the eye and makes one more circumspect to the state of the steak.
The spliff also causes the onset of hunger pangs, and makes everything taste so much better, thus ensuring a memorable braai.
Mixed braai's, on the other hand, mostly consist of a large array of bowls placed outside on the camping tables by the ladies.
In the bowls can be anything from pasta to prawns, cucumber slices and apple mixed with crushed nuts.
It is there that mother grundy's can also be spotted.
They are the women in pale blue crimpolene dresses with frills around the breast area.
They bring six bowls of the finest homemade salad food, lovingly presented on a paper doily and a little mosquito net with pink glass beads and tassels stretched over the top.
The party girls, who are normally named Cheryl or Ingrid, bring one large bowl, filled with cut up tomatoes and red peppers doing breaststroke in cheap Vodka
They have blue eyes that are constantly in need of eye drops.
No mosquito netting over the top of that bowl is necessary.
This is calledkragkosor power food in english, and this bowl has the power to make or break relationships that very evening.
Trust me on this one.
In the other bowls there are salads in some, twirly pastas in the other and fruit and nuts and lemon slices in the rest.
Even barbecued fruit.
There is sometimes even fish and prawns and chicken.
Chicken kebabs in english.
A stick with big chicken chunks skewered unwillingly onto it and apricot and some other green stuff in between the chicken.
Luckily the apricot is there, so it wets the chicken and allows you to swallow it with out needing medical attention.
The apricot replaces one disgusting taste with another.
This is the flavor of the post-protoman modern multi-sex braai in South Africa today.
Luckily, after ten 'o clock, all the klooster koekies and the naffs leave to their suburban homes to relieve their tormented baby sitters.
It is at this time of the night that the braai can divide into three different flavors.
1. Everyone eases out of the braai towards the midnight hour and, like the carefully made man-fire, the evening dies a natural death.
This normally happens to braai's that are held on Friday and Sunday because of work the next day.
No one wants to talk to the boss the next day still pissed from the night before.
Or it can also happen because the people are tired and want to go snuggle at home.
The ones who did not partake from the party girls bowl, that is.
2. Everybody gets so pissed and stoned that the braai dies and natural death.
This can also be a good time to have contraception handy, what with darkness, willing bodies and lowered inhibitions in thehand, so to speak.
3.The braai moves to the living room of the parent house.
Here the braai can morph into the good or the bad.
The good is that everybody dances, drinks and smokes up a storm and passes out on the living room couch or carpet in slightly or very embarrassing positions the next morning.
Or, for that matter, new relationships are entered into. ( no pun )
The braai turn bad when the youngest sister catches the hostess flagrante delicto in the laundry room with the hubby's best friend.
The permutations are endless, and I describe the above from others' experience.....ha ha.
But all SA braai's have the bottom line ending, no matter what happens.