Botswana Braais: The Heartbeat of Social Unions

Programs for this blog post

Summer Community Public Health

Authored By:

CIEE Gaborone

Authored by: Ruby Pitinyane 

Botswana, a country known for its quality beef production, vast landscapes and rich cultural heritage, holds a special place for the tradition of braais. A braai is a social event that goes beyond cooking. The word braai comes from the Southern African Afrikaans language, meaning grill or roast. It is deeply ingrained in the culture of Botswana and often serves as a gathering point for families and friends. This past weekend CIEE Gaborone hosted a braai for the summer 2024 group. The afternoon was filled with dancing and singing, creating a festive atmosphere. 

The Tradition of Braais in Botswana 

Braais are a time for socializing, sharing stories, and enjoying a sense of community. The menu at a braai typically includes a variety of meats such as boerewors, lamb chops, chicken, and game meat. Side dishes often include any salads, commonly maize porridge (pap) or bread, alongside other sides such as chakalaka (a bean salad) and more. The emphasis is on simple, hearty foods that can be enjoyed by all.

Significance of Braais 

The significance of braais in Botswana extends beyond the culinary experience. In a society where the extended family plays a crucial role, braais serve as an essential gathering that reinforces bonds. Braais are often held during important events such as weddings, holidays, and community celebrations or casually like on weekends. They symbolize a spirit of togetherness and are integral to the social rituals that mark occasions. 

Family Unions and Community 

In a braai, the meat is usually cooked over wood or charcoal, imparting a distinct smoky flavor. The choice of wood can vary, with hardwoods like acacia or mopane being preferred for their aromatic qualities. The cooking process is often slower and more involved, emphasizing the experience and social aspect of grilling. Guests gather around the fire, engaging in conversation and enjoying drinks while the food cooks. This typically takes place outdoors, often in the backyard, with a relaxed and informal atmosphere. The fire and cooking process are central, making it a focal point of the event.