No matter how much people try and tell you that they are the same thing, I can assure you that they are not. Whilst both involve cooking food on a grill/bbq over wood or charcoal, etiquette, it seems, is what defines these
In the UK, a bbq is a laid back social gathering. Usually the host supplies most of the food, and you bring the booze and a pack of meat or a salad. It has a start time, but no end time, and people booze a LOT so often end up staying until the wee hours. They have the luxury of cheap taxi’s and public transport so it’s easier to drink hard spirits like they are going out of fashion. The host puts on a good spread – various meats and various side dishes. People eat a lot because they have drunk so much! People turn up if they say they are going to, even if they are really running late
We had our housewarming braai this weekend. I got up at 6.3o and started making the side dishes – we had vegetarians say that they were coming and I didn’t want them to not have any food, so I went out of my way to make a lot of sides – pasta salad, potato salad, cous cous salad, vegetable and halloumi skewers, tomato and feta parcels. Meat-wise, we had bought burgers, pork sausages, chicken drumsticks, chicken skewers, tiger prawns, boerewors and ribs. Nothing too extravagant we thought. Nothing more than we would have put on back home in London
As soon as you start cooking food at a bbq in the UK, it is gone in a flash. The host is constantly cooking and the guests are constantly eating. We couldn’t understand why no one was eating the food here that we were putting on the table. In SA apparently people wait for the host to eat too. I mean, that’s good manners, but I want everyone to have their food hot! Our friend later told us that the cook should make the first round of meat, then serve and eat something with the guests before going back to cook some more
Our braai had only just got going when the Heaven’s opened. It had been so hot 2 hours earlier that we were in the pool! That’s the thing about summer here – it often rains at around 4-5pm but then quickly passes. Well this didn’t! Rob was bbq’ing in the rain, bless him, and everyone else was camping out in the living room! The rain lasted all night. Sod’s Law
One of the South African guests commented on how we had really gone to town with the spread, and that at a braai you usually just get some boerewors and a roll. I couldn’t believe it! I have found South African’s to be such great hosts, and couldn’t imagine them not having enough food to satisfy everyone. To me, not having a wide range of food on offer would be bad form. Maybe it’s my Asian background kicking in – if you go to my aunt’s or my great aunt’s house for lunch you will need to get a wheel chair out of there as you will have eaten so much
Finally, in the UK, if you say that you are going to someones bbq, you actually attend. You know how much effort, time and money have been spent on the food preparation and whether you feel like it or not, you show your face (and usually end up staying all night and getting hammered!). We had quite a few people say that they were going to come and then not even turn up. Maybe because all they were expecting was a sausage and a roll, and to drive in the torrential rain wasn’t worth that. Maybe because we haven’t known them that long. They missed out though, as two friends made the best apple cake and chocolate cake pops ever!
Our braai was a valuable lesson:
Don’t make enough food for everyone that says they are attending. Inevitably some people can’t make it on the day, but it seems if you don’t have the terribly British sense of obligation, you feel OK with not rocking up without a phone call
Don’t go out of your way to cater for special diets as they may not attend. None of the vegetarians turned up at mine, and we had bought a lot of soft drinks for the non-drinkers, who also didn’t turn up!
Have your braai at lunch time, even if it means that your incredibly fair skinned boyfriend is going to burn to a crisp. Suck it up and break out that factor 60, as come 4pm there is a real threat of a thunderstorm so a braai with a later start is going to wash out
Don’t bother with hard liquor as a lot of people have to drive home (there’s no reliable transport other than your own car here). People like beer, cider (Savannah mmmmm) and white/rose wine. You can indeed break out the red wine in the evening once it is cool enough to do so, but who wants to drink that in 35 degree heat……..
Have a lot of soft drinks available. People need to drive!
Eat with your guests and then go back to the grill – there’s no cooking it all at once and then chilling out here, but then that is beneficial for latecomers as they still get hot food
Even if you have left over food, it won’t go to waste. We don’t throw food away here unless it is bad. We give it to the car guards across the road, or the homeless guys begging at the lights
We had the most thoughtful gift from one of our guests – our friend Laura bought us breakfast for the following morning as we would be hungover and not want to sort ourselves out! Fresh croissants, ham, cheese and jam. Best idea ever! Thanks Laura!