What do you do when you're taking a foreign journalist around and he wants to have something local for lunch? Well, I phoned a colleague at work and suggested that we take him for liver and stew in the township. He then suggested that we do something else and take the journalist for a traditional ikasi tsisha njama (township braai or barbeque). Sisha Njama is a Zulu phrase and literally means "burn the meat" while in Xhosa it is spelled Tsisha Njama. I am a proud Afrikaner and just like the Xhosas, Zulus and other black groups in South Africa a braai is very much part of my cultural and traditions. The only problem was that I have never been for a proper township braai which meant that this experience was as new to me as for the journalist.
A township tsisha nyama is normally linked to a butchery and to be able to use the braai facility you have to buy your meat from the butchery. Lifa and Mafa in Zwide, Port Elizabeth has a butchery on par with anything I've seen in the suburbs and we stocked up on enough lamb chops, chicken and boerewors (sausage) for six... just in case we were very hungry. The meat is spiced and wrapped in brown paper ready for you to throw onto the coals. Now if I can just find out what their secret spice is cause damn it tasted good.
The next step is to head around the building to the back where the fires burn all day long making coals for hungry patrons to braai on. Most guys braai their own meat although you can also ask the guys who work there to do it for you in return for a tip. Coals are scooped into the braai's and all you have to do is put on the meat and start "burning the meat". I did turn one or two heads who weren't quite used to seeing a white guy there, but that was just momentory amazement. The fact that the locals where just surprised and didn't make an issue of it shows how far our rainbow nation has come.
Is it just me or can I smell the meat... hear it sizzling... see it turn brown... taste it... even though its only a picture. My mouth is watering right now.
Once the meat is done it gets placed back into the brown paper (and in our case into a chicken box) and it is ready to eat. There are no plates (you eat it out of the box), no cutlery (you eat with your fingers) and no napkins (you just tear off a piece of the brown paper and wipe your fingers on that). Nothing fancy, just pure indulgence.