For people who have not experienced the difference, it might seem like the English BBQ and the South African Braai are the same thing, but this is never something that you should say in South Africa! People there believe that their braai is far more of an occasion than the BBQ, and there are a number of reasons for this.
The English BBQ is generally considered to be an opportunity for family and friends to have a bit of a social gathering and something to eat, unless it is properly organised for a special occasion like a wedding. On the other hand, the braai itself is considered to be something of an occasion. South Africans take the quality of the food cooked at the braai very seriously, whereas the average English BBQ might only feature cheaper cuts of meat. Lack of experience using a BBQ could also mean that the food does not get cooked properly, which is another reason to take it a little more seriously.
In South Africa, the braai master is considered to be well and truly in charge of the occasion and his word is law. In England, the average BBQ might see a few people having a go at the cooking, producing varied results. Attending a South African braai also means that you need to respect the process. Care is taken over the preparation of the braai, whereas in England, the food is thrown on once the BBQ gets hot and then left there until it looks cooked.
Another key difference is that in South Africa, the braai can be held at any time, even when the weather is colder. The English BBQ is often only considered to be an option during the summer months, and then it is put away until the following year. Good weather is not considered to be essential in South Africa, with braais taking place throughout the year.
Many of us look forward to BBQ time, but if we were to view it more as the South Africans do, it might be far more enjoyable. The organisation, preparation and care that goes into the braai is something that we can try to incorporate into the traditional English version. Opting for an English BBQ for a special occasion like a birthday or a wedding and having the whole thing run by a professional will bring you much closer to an experience that you will appreciate and remember for a long time to come.