"I braai for a living" says Jan Braai

The man behind National Braai Day, the 'celebration of the nation', calls all South Africans to action on September 24th

Jan Scannell, born in Stellenbosch, had at least one braai a week when he grew up. He studied accounting and worked in financial services, "but that’s not really what I wanted to do, it wasn’t my passion," Jan says. He resigned from his job at the end of 2005 to focus on National Braai Day. "In the Netherlands they celebrate Queens Day, the Irish celebrate St. Patricks Day, and the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, it happens through the government." Jan Scannell’s aim with celebrating National Braai Day every year on Heritage day, September 24th is to have one day where all South Africans are united around a braai, creating an annual day of celebration in South Africa.

South Africans, join the revolution and braai on the 24th of September every year!

What’s a braai in one sentence? I ask the braai-master. "A sociable gathering of people around a fire cooking food in the healthiest way possible," says Jan while telling me of his five year braai-journey. He approached big companies to help him implement the National Braai day on Heritage Day, every year on September 24th. "I want to feel good about South Africa, and National Braai Day is clearly good for the country." The companies Jan approached didn’t get his point back then, up until now, most of the money he works with comes from private donations. Jan wants his children and grandchilden to live in a united South Africa. In 2010 Jan Braai had great media coverage when he achieved the world record for braaing for 28.5 hours!

Jan Braai about braais

I think Jan Braai is right. There are certain facts one can’t get around. "All South Africans love a braai. A braai is common among us. People in Constantia love to braai, people in Gugulethu and also people in the middle of the Transkei. A braai is unique. A braai is a very suburban thing to do and very African," says passionate Jan.

Jan Braai did a tour "like the president does before elections" and travelled through South Africa, braaing with local meat and wood. "I took a map and decided on 40 days and 40 places to visit, including all eight heritage sites of the country." The braai-journey was documented and you can watch a 30-minute TV show on kykNET until 30th Spetember 2011 every Friday at 5.30pm with reruns on Saturdays at 1pm, Sundays 8am and Mondays at 3am. The highlight was a braai at a Venda village where people braaied without grids, put the meat on the coal and surprisingly the meat was not full of ash.

Braai tips

Jan Braai thinks the TV-cooking shows encourage people to be more creative with their three meals a day. "This also has a spill-over-effect on braaing." Important for a good braai is first of all good meat. Jan shared his favourite butcheries in Cape Town with us. "Anything you will braai tastes better, braaing is more fun, you’re outside and it’s healthier and often fat free. You can put anything on a braai." Another tip is about the wood. "Get a bakkie full of wood, store it outside on your stoep, the rain doesn’t matter to the wood, don’t cover it since this will have greenhouse effect." Jan shares some more braai advise with us.

The best braais you usually have at home in your backyard, but there are also great public braai-spots in Cape Town and surrounds.

Watch Desmond Tutu’s Braai4Heritage message and the official music video of the National Braai Day anthem by Heuwels Fantasties, JR, HHP & the Soweto Gospel Choir

You will find interesting facts on www.braai.com

Jan’s braai-website www.braai.com has many interesting braai-facts as well as amusing things waiting for you. For instance 'When you enjoy the meat prepared by the braaier, use as a word of praise. "Wow, this steak is good, braailient!"' or people asking for advice: "I’m single and recently moved down to Cape Town from the Free State. I haven’t really made friends here that do the braai-thing. I miss braaivleis so much! But I’m definitely not going to start a braai on my own. Lol. Braaivleis is truly awesome. by Arleen". Jan’s response: "You really should try to do a braai on your own. It is not that difficult. The smell will attract your neighbours and in no time you'll have many new friends in Cape Town!"

"… what Jan Scannell had in mind with the Braai Day initiative… is nurturing and embracing a common South African culture, which is shared across all races and genders. Not one South African person can tell you that they have never witnessed a braai. Even in rural areas they light a fire and put their meat on it to cook. As a meat lover, I urge that on Heritage Day people Braai4Heritage and share their meat with those who do not have," said archbishop Desmond Tutu in The Times in September 2008.

Jan had a great idea to bring South Africans together, once a year around a braai-fire to celebrate a country that’s worth to celebrating.

By Antonia Heil

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