A Celebration from South Africa
In South Africa, the equivalent to Thanksgiving Day is something called Braai Day on September 24. A braai (rhymes with dry) is a uniquely South African gathering around food roasting on an open fire, similar to an American barbecue.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the patron of Braai Day, has said, “We’ve learned that people who sit down to share a meal together, who talk about their interests while celebrating their differences, are much more likely to build a prosperous future together.”
Looped video and poster images of Tutu and also Nelson Mandela were the backdrop for The New York Times’ very own Braai Day celebration.
“One member of the Diversity & Inclusion group here is from South Africa, and he helped us put together a very interesting menu,” says Michael Smith, executive chef, The New York Times/Restaurant Associates, New York City.
Since the cuisine of South Africa is heavy on the meat, grilled house-made sausages were part of the celebration. The condiment for the sausages is a sauce/side dish called Chakalaka.
Chakalaka is a sweet, spicy side dish made with tomatoes, beans and vegetables, often served with sausage.
For the NY Times celebration, it was served with the sausage in a more pureed form, and as a stand-alone side dish with cauliflower and broccoli mixed in. Chakalaka is now on regular menu rotation.
“There’s always a dish or two that stands out from an event like this,” Smith says.
Other South African dishes that were featured include Peri Peri Chicken, with a spicy punch that comes from African birds eye chilies; and Lamb Potjiekos, a braised lamb stew in which “baby vegetables like pattypan squash were added during the last third of cooking, and that gave it a lightened up flavor,” Smith says.
Overall, the event was emblematic of the best things about diversity, good food, gathering, and a reminder of being open to new adventures, Smith says.