I have been very fortunate in my time that I have had an extremely cosmopolitan working life, having had co-workers from all over the planet. I can state with some gravitas that I have never come across an Australian I didn’t like, and having lived in a nation that’s full of them when I was in Canberra, it’s no mean feat not to have found one unpleasant example. Of course, Canberra is not like the rest of Australia as it is an unreal environment built for government purposes, but still.
From 2000 forwards, I found myself more and more in the presence of South Africans, some of whom were leaving the homeland as circumstances deteriorated both economically and socially. Many had played their trump card of British passport qualification via immigrant grandparents or other reasons of ancestry. But also many were Afrikaners and black Africans who don’t have that convenient way to leave but still decided to take their abilities for higher rewards elsewhere.
To a man and woman I have found them, contrary to the famous “Spitting Image” song, delightful, good humoured and great fun to be with. Also to a man and woman, they remain sure that it was South Africans that invented the idea of cooking in the open air. The braaivleis (Afrikaans meaning roasted meat) is a cultural custom on a par with rugby and diamonds.
In the old days, people would drive out into the veld, hunt down antelope such as springbok, eland or Cape buffalo for the larger party. They’d shoot it, skin and butcher it, dig a pit and build a fire and cook the meat, usually whole. They can’t do that very easily nowadays as the wildlife is rather better protected and hunting is strictly licensed, but the habit of the braai remains as an important social event which no summer party of any size is complete without.
Australians are just as strident that they invented the idea through the barbeque. Although the hunting bit is normally missing, and made difficulty by not being as varied as in the South African tradition. Kangaroos are very tasty but extremely hard and time consuming to get the meat right (it has to hang for at least 2 weeks which somewhat loses the element of spontaneity) and most other possibilities are too small (possums), cute (koalas, wombats), inedible (dingoes, platypus) or too lethal (practically all other wildlife on the continent) to consider, the Aussies take huge pride in the outdoor tradition.
Here, we don’t have wildlife capture and consumption but we can still make the most of the barbeque, and in recent years the equipment available has got better out of all proportion. For example we have makers such as weber bbq who build weber gas grills which help take out the randomness of building an old fashioned fire and introduce reliability and the ability to use the equipment in all weathers should the need arise.
Some of the weber gas grills now come with total portability which means that you can take them with you on a excursion out to the beach or picnic which further removes the annoyance of burnt coals being left behind on the sands which is a usual hazard of the disposable barbecue or lightweight charcoal burners.
Of course the colonials can row and have their faith over the history of the invention, but in the reign of the Mongol hordes, as Genghis Khan ran amok throughout the known world of antiquity, his soldiers didn’t have a weber bbq so instead they used to cook on upturned shields over an open fire and cook their meat on there, and so probably have the better claim overall.