barbecue


thanksgiving_turkey_2

My “liberal” credentials might take a bit of a beating here. But, what the hell, I am African… I can’t pull punches just to make people feel better about themselves. I have some beef with what we eat…

You know I don’t like Palin. She an empty head with lots of background noise. I’m not even going to go into that. Just have a look at a few of the things I’ve written about her to know I am not a fan. See the letter I wrote to Sarah, or how six degrees of separation makes her anti-American and not a maverick, or what I want in a Vice President. Oh, there are many more. But those will give you a sense of my dislike of the lipstick pig.

And here I am defending her. Dammit. I thought about it for a while… But I know I have to. It’s about meat you see. And I am a meatarian. Ooh… Not everyone likes that part of me. Mmm. A few nice tjops and a boerewors on the open fire… Mouth watering sh*t I tell you. Anyway. Go have a look at my views on eating meat. Unpopular? Maybe. Do I care? Hum… Sorry… Was that a question? I eat meat. Live with it.

What am I talking about? I am talking about the “turkey incident”. You know, the one with Sarah “Empty Head” Palin talking to the media while a guy is busy cutting the throat of a turkey in the background to drain the blood. And of course, kill the bird. Here is a link to that just in case you haven’t seen it yet. Do what I did… Turn off the sound and just watch the guy in the background. I really have no reason to hear her voice. She sounds just like a bunch of turkeys in any case. And about as predictable. Have you ever stood with a bunch of turkeys and made the turkey “kulu-kulu-kulu” sound? Yep, they all react the same way by singing it all back to you in unison. Just like Sarah and her gang of bigots. You push the button and she’ll sing it back… So predictable. Anyway… Here is the video.

It was all over the news. People were up in arms about her being so stupid to stand in front of the cameras while the guy is killing the bird in the background. How could she? Is she that stupid? Hum… Yes, this “bird” is that stupid but it has nothing to do with the bird in the background. I really don’t get what the fuss was about?

Are you shocked about the killing of the bird? WTF? How did you think that turkey got on your plate over Thanksgiving? Do you think they were massaged till they died a peaceful death? Or that they died of some natural cause?

Yep. They did die of a natural cause. Natural for a turkey in any case. They got slaughtered. And nicely packaged for your convenience. Ready to place your order for a 16 pound turkey and pick it up at Roche Brothers the day before Thanksgiving. And then you stick it in the oven for a few hours and… Wallah! Turkey time!

(Oh, we had a chicken on steroids for Thanksgiving. Eight pounds – the smallest one you could order. Hey, the butcher frowned at our un-American size turkey – even after we explained we are four very normal size people. Two kids and two grown ups. But that maple syrup did the trick. Nice and juicy! Thanks babe.)

Back to reality… The meat you eat were once little calves and chicks and little piggies and little baa baa white sheep. Yes, they were cute once. But now they are dinner. Or maybe just mashed up into a burger or something. Get used to it. The things we call meat were once alive. Now they are nicely done (medium rare as the chef said) and on our dinner plates. Live with it.

More importantly, own it.

I find it amazing that people were shocked at the video. I just can’t understand how people can think that food comes nicely packaged without any consequences. Meat doesn’t grow on trees. Their natural state isn’t wrapped in plastic and in cold storage. They don’t grow up from little 1 ounce steaks into the half-pounder you slap on the grill.

I don’t have a problem with what I eat. I slaughtered a few sheep in my time. And cattle for that matter. Plucked a few chickens. Even helped a turkey or two from their kulu-kulu state into my plate. That’s life. I am from Africa and had to go to the farm when there was a break from school. I’m glad I did it.

And I am happy that I slaughtered the sheep and cows and chickens and rabbits and deer or whatever else came my way from the farm or when we went hunting. We ate what we killed. It wasn’t for fun. It was for food and to control the numbers. Too many wild animals and the semi-desert area would turn into a desert area if we didn’t cull the animals and control the numbers. Like I said, it wasn’t for fun.

But I am still glad I knew what I ate. And I am glad that I could take ownership of what I ate. From the farm to my plate. I knew the animals and knew what they were for. We always looked after them and fed them. Gave them space to live and kept them healthy. But they weren’t there to be played with. We respected them and treated them well. And then we will slaughter them in the best and quickets way we can. Always with respect and acknowledgement that we owe them as much as what we own them. Because we knew that in the end we will eat them. And live.

My only problem now is that I don’t know where my meat comes from. I know about the force-feeding of turkeys and the steroids for juicy steaks and the transporting of sheep. I don’t like it. I don’t. But I have to make a choice. I either eat it and know what might have happened along the way or I should shut the f*ck up and go eat some celery.

Oh I try to be organic when I can afford it and when I can get it. I make sure I have as much information as possible. But I am not going to live in the clouds and think that there are no consequences. I know that there are some major sh*t going on in the US when it comes to the stuff they call meat. Those large commercial farms are not a pretty sight. But that happens when you want your steaks and you want your burgers. It’s as horrid as you can imagine and then some. Sh*t happens when we want to eat meat.

Know what you eat. Live with it. Don’t try and think you are all “eco-activist” by getting worked up about the turkey getting slaughtered. Those horrid pictures… That’s life. That’s how you get your food. Know it. Live with it. And then eat it.

I do. I’m not going to bullsh*t myself. I might be a disgusting bastard and barbaric African for eating meat, but I am not going to be a hypocrite. I know it. I live with it. And I eat it.

Don’t think your all organic green salad is that much better. Farming soya is killing the Amazon forest. And it tastes like crap. (No thanks, I’ve tried it many, many times in different ways. It always tastes shite.) What makes a plant so much worse than a cow? Just because it doesn’t have whiskers and a heartbeat?

It’s so stupid. People trying to humanize the animals we eat. Cows with glasses on? Yeah, it is funny… But it is also a piece of steak away from being on my plate. Chicken Little? Wait till he grows up. Babe? Mmm, wonder what the farmer did with him when he got old? Sorry, these animals don’t live the lives we are told on the telly or read in those nice bedtime stories. Those are stories, not life. I laugh at the stories of animals done so beautifully by Pixar and the Disney gang and I love Back To The Barnyard. But I also know that calling the main cow Otis doesn’t mean he won’t be eaten when the time comes.

You like cats or dogs? Guess what… The stuff you feed them? Used to be the crap left over after they cut the choice meat for us. Or the fish heads left over after we got our frozen bits cut into nice cubes. We eat meat. Or some of us do. And we should know what we eat and not be disgusted by how we get it. That is bigotry. Or at least hypocritical.

Thank God we don’t hear the broccoli scream as you snap the stem, dry freeze it before it is stuffed in a plastic bag and then dropped in boiled water or nuked by the microwave. Oh, those poor, poor broccoli. And the cute little peas. What did they ever do to you? Or do you wait for the carrot to die a natural death?

No. I am not going to eat roadkill. I know what I eat. Or at least as much as what I can know. I am not going to flinch when I see a picture of a dead animal getting slaughtered and packaged. I am going to look at it and then slap it on the grill.

I know it. I see it. I own it. I live with it. And I eat it.

Do you?

meat

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You know, sometimes we needs loads of evidence to point to someone being Souf Efrikans. But sometimes one photo tells the story. Unfortunately for others, 3 photos are not only enough proof to show they are Souf Efrikan, but also enough to make sure they won’t ever get a visa to go anywhere else in the world.

Take today’s victim friend… He gave me 3 photos. Was he crazy? He could have given me one corner of one half a photo and I could have pointed it out to him. Hell… This guy is so Souf Efrikan that even Mandela calls him boet. I bet you he has the typical 1, 2, 3 of Souf Efrikans – 1 liter brandy, 2 liter Coke and 3 liter Ford. That’s Souf Efrikans for you. As easy as 1, 2, 3…

I give to you Koos Baardman (Chuck Beardman)… Oh, he thought he was Keven Bennet from Seattle, but we know he is Koos Baardman from Sonderwater (Withoutwater). But let me give you a bit of background on Koos…

Every year millions of Souf Efrikans go down to the Cape for a holiday. Those Vaalies, or as we call them, Klipkakkers (Hum… Rockshitters…) come down in their numbers. Getting away from the craziness of living up at high altitude. Only problem is that they are the crazy people and they all gather down at our place. And guess what happens? It’s the same crazy people doing the same crazy things – but just with a better view. Ja, bleddie Klipkakkers…

We have a few of the farmers coming down as well. Bringing their caravans, sheep and mother-in-law with them. That is also the order of importance. Koos does that. He is a farmer. He rents a place right next to the sea every year. Okay, what he defines right next to the sea. It’s about 5 miles in and right next to the sewerage plant. But that’s no problem. Five miles is just enough for the mother-in-law to go missing for the whole day. Or whole holiday. And the smell of the sewerage plant remind him of the kraal (enclosure for sheep and cattle) back home. He is from the land where men are men and sheep are scared…

So here we have Koos at his little place by the sea. Let’s see what evidence we can find. A bit of a tester today. Try to match the red arrows to the statement of his Souf Efrikan roots…

The afdak… (The lean-to) 

Every good Souf Efrikan has got one. An afdak. But not just any afdak. There are certain things that tells us this is a Souf Efrikan afdak…

Now, let’s match the arrows… Join the dots… Check the lines… You get what I mean?

1. A roof made of old blue overalls and stitched together by his lovely wife Ant Bettie. (Blue overalls are the standard outfit for farmers in Souf Efrika.)

2. Leg of blue overall still hanging down the side of the afdak.

3. Old school lawnmower for when the last sheep is on the braai but the grass still needs to be cut.

4. House at the back where mother-in-law is locked up at night. (Just to keep her away from the booze and boys.)

5. Window Aunt Bettie uses to shout instruction like, “Pulls up yor pents Koos. Duh hole nayburhood dusn’t neet to see yor builders cleavage.” (Proper accent included.)

6. Forest for feature braai wood. It used to come right up to his back door. Yes, Koos likes to braai. Often. And big.

7. Pipe to let the steam out from the “braai”. It isn’t really a braai. It is a home made mampoer factory. (Mampoer is the strongest drink ever made. And it is home brewed. Not to be used close to an open flame. But can be used as a paint stripper. Made from fruits. Any fruits. We Souf Efrikans aren’t too picky…)

And… Did you see the generator driven computer in the background? That’s to keep up with what’s going down with AA! Fox News for Africa. Unfiltered and unbiased… Hah!

The workshop…

But you would think the guy will stop there right? That he won’t give me any more reason to “show him the way”? He did…

1. The stick part of a broom used to poke the coals, chase the bloody dog who just grabbed the meat off the braai and also to flip the dog turds off the grass like a professional golfer. (Was once used to keep Ant Bettie away when Koos by “accident” had an “accident” in the kitchen sink after too much mampoer.)

2. A telly to watch the rugby and cricket on. This is cricket you see because no true contact sport for men will really have so much padding or wear helmets. The motto of rugby players… “Real men don’t wear helmets” and “it doesn’t hurt if you can stitch it back on”.

3. A coffee mug. Koos’s favorite coffee mug. He drinks everything from this mug. It says, I Love Mum. Not allowed to be washed, only rinsed, as Koos believes the residue of coffee, mampoer and braai sauce leaves a nice aftertaste. Also known to repel flies from the braai area. And cats won’t even crap close to it. (Currently has mampoer in it.)

4. Wooden fence to keep the noisy neighbors out. Especially the mother-in-law.

5. Bag of charcoal. Only to be used when wood runs out or when you need something hard to chuck at the dogs crapping on the lawn but you don’t really want to get up from the chair.

6. The “Mampoer Bucket”. Used for any type of residue left after making mampoer. From the leftover fruits to the brown and green stuff that grows at the top of the liquid or the yellow watery stuff that comes from you after consuming too much liquid. Once the bucket is filled… Used to kill ants and bees in the garden. And stop the dogs from crapping on the lawn. And makes a mean mix with some ice and a lemon. Not sliced. Called Souf Efrikan Cocktail.

7. Chair taken from the rubbish dump and welded together again by Koos. He made his whole dining room set this way…

8. Big bag of crisps hiding behind the chair. Ant Bettie doesn’t want him to eat so much crisps. But he needs his fix. Also used to store biltong when Ant Bettie isn’t looking. And spare beer.

9. Huge bowl of dip for the chips. Currently covered in tinfoil. Key ingredients… Onion, salt and the stuff from the mampoer bucket.

10. Grass where the dogs crap. No matter what you do there will always be fresh crap in the morning.

11. Big cooler / small paraffin fridge to keep the beers cold. Always stocked full. Because you never know when the “Big Wind” of ’78 might hit you again. That was when Ant Bettie made bean stew and forced Koos to sleep outside for a few days until his “Big Wind” passed. And passed completely.

12. Spare canister attached to braai / mampoer factory to hold extra cold beers while waiting for the mampoer / braai to be done.

13. Tools hanging from braai. These tools are proper antiques and the London Museum has offered Koos loads of money for this already. They want to use it as part of their Neanderthal display. But Koos said his dad gave it to him and he has fond memories of those tools. And he can show the scars on his butt to prove it.

Koos himself…

You think that is enough? How Souf Efrikan can he be? Much more…

 

1. Neck. Made for playing rugby. Take no prisoners! Real men play rugby and real men have real necks. Not rednecks.

2. Hair shaved for the holidays. Generally covered in big floppy farmer hat. Good to get a haircut once a year. Gets rid of all the things that live there. At least 3 previously unknown species was found by the Nobel prize winning group of scientists who make this yearly pilgrimage to what is known in scientific circles as “The Haircut”. (It is not known whether any of the new species will be able to survive outside the Koos habitat.)

3. Fence also used as spare wood for really big braais. It used to be 60 feet long. But then, Koos had a couple of really big braais since then.

4. The bakkie… Like every good farmer Oom Koos drives a bakkie that is diesel and the smoke it creates when you start it can be seen from space. Rumored to have led to the invasion of Iraq as the bakkie was seen as a WMD. But he drove it back to SA quickly once he filled his oil drum (now used as a braai / mampoer factory.) The US never suspected a thing. Oom Koos is good in that way. Or maybe Rummy was just bad in that way. And yes, when Oom Koos drives the bakkie it can also be heard from space.

5. The kraal where the sheep stay during the holiday. Barren because the sheep have eaten almost all the grass. Not a problem because Oom Koos have eaten almost all the sheep already. Yes, Oom Koos and Ant Bettie have been there on holiday for almost a week already.

6.  The towel used to wipe bloody hands when Koos slaughters the sheep. Also used to dry himself after a swim at the beach.

7. The path to freedom. Or at least to the outside toilet known as his “office”. That’s the right turn where he makes his number 2’s. Number 1 is done on the grass like all good Souf Efrikan men do. Koos turns left for his 1 and 2. 1 Liter brandy and 2 liter Coke. The shop is just around the corner. Oom Koos is known to be more inclined to go left than right. It’s a natural thing for him to lean towards the left.

8. Braai made from an oil drum. You know, the one he got in Iraq. He cut it in half and just welded a few spots together. High tech for a Souf Efrikan but then, he is known for his edgy attitudes towards braaing. He was once seen braaing chicken! What the hell is a salad doing on the fire? A question asked by the many onlookers. If it’s not red it’s not meat. If it’s not meat you can’t eat.

9. Rooster to place the meat on. The rooster (grill) is a key component of any braai. It leaves nice lines across the steaks. Best place to get a rooster is to cut one out of the frame of a grocery trolley. And it’s shiny too!

10. Battery backup for the mampoer factory. The clamp is used to charge the battery that runs the mampoer factory. At the moment not on as the braai and mampoer can’t be done at the same time. Koos generally empties the mampoer into his mug for “safe keeping” while he braais. No one knows how safe this really is. Not this close to an open fire in any case. Koos uses it instead of fire lighters. No, he doesn’t pour it over the coals. He just breathes over the coals. So strong that no matches are required either. The term “spontaneous combustion” was named after Koos and his fire lighting abilities.

11. Tongs used to grip the rooster. Koos is also known as an expert in grabbing thongs with his tongs. The screams of surprise and the horror when they see him can also be heard from space. Koos doesn’t mean anything with this. He just needs something to cover his hands when he grips the tongs. They get hot. Unlike the girls he gets his thongs from.

12. Meat and fish pot. Koos is famous for his daring braai techniques. You can see the pot where he mixed fish and chicken together. Men call him names because of this. Names like “traitor”, “Mr WTF” and “stupid doos”, but Koos doesn’t mind as he is a Renaissance man. Just don’t call him a maverick… Let me just clarify Koos being famous for this dishes. Infamous might be a better word for it. Eating this dish is not allowed under the Geneva Convention. It makes grown men cry. And get very, very sick. There is no known cure for this. Have you seen the movie Awakening? Now you know why…

13. A red arrow. I just threw an extra red arrow in there to make it look even more impressive. Honestly? I actually forgot why I had that other arrow in there. Or that one…

14. The chain. Some people think that Koos have dog chains around his neck. No, it isn’t. It’s his keys, tools (drillbits and screwdriver), earbud (he has used the same one since 1984. They always come clean after a rinse under hot water. Or after repeated use), tobacco for his pipe, his pipe, glasses and Swiss Army Knife. Oh, and a can of Bullybeef (Spam/Corned Beef) and a half-jack of mampoer. A man can never be too prepared. He hides it really, really well.

15. Boep. The paunch that you see is the pride of all Souf Efrikan men. Or like they would say, “I work-ad werry hart forr dis boep. U no how mutch beer I hed two drinked two get dis boep? Et leest wurf 40 bucks. Part off my retiremint plen.” A Souf Efrikan man without a boep is like having Italy not change their government every year. Or the English not lose against Souf Efrika in rugby or cricket. Or President Bush without a f*ck-up once a day. You know it is possible, but it ain’t gonna happen.

16. Rugby jersey. Every man in Souf Efrika must have a rugby jersey. You never wear it on the farm. But you also never take it off when you go on holiday. Including at night when you go to sleep. Alone. Outside. Also never washed. NEVER washed. Wash it and you could be deported and lose your citizenship. Another reason to sleep outside… The smell. Just ask Ant Bettie. Koos played rugby. He was a winger who played on the left. A left winger.

There you go! And who said that KB isn’t Souf Efrikan? Hell, he is more Souf Efrikan than me! Seattle is only where he visits for the duration of his lifetime. But Souf Efrikan he is…

Sorry Kev, but you asked for it…

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Who’s next? Come on… Don’t be afraid. I’ll be nice…

Open house! Send me your pictures showing me how Souf Efrikan you are. It doesn’t matter whether you are Souf Efrikan or not (See Note 2 at the bottom for some tips on being a Souf Efrikan). We just want to see if you have some of that lovely stubborn foolhardiness thickheaded approach to life we Souf Efrikans share. I’ll post it with my “analysis”. First one up, and an innocent victim… I mean contributor…

Skuttlefish emailed me a photo of him having a BBQ… Not with gas… And in the rain. I think that makes him almost South African. Trust me. This is the kind of foolishness… I mean dedication… that South Africans are known for. He has South African blood running through those veins. Whether he knows it or not. Whether he wants it or not!

But let’s dig a little bit deeper into how Souf Efrikan he is… We know the rain and no gas rules. But just how Souf Efrikan is he? My deep analysis…

1. He has no shoes on…

2. He has three quarter pants on with his keys and mobile phone tucked into his belt…

3. He has more tools for the braai (BBQ) than actual pieces of meat…

4. He is braaing ribs and not some sissy stuff like corn or chicken… (By the way, chicken is a salad according to Souf Efrikans.)

5. He is balancing a drink while holding an umbrella and poking the meat. (And who said men can’t multitask?)

That last one is the clincher. He is my brother. No! He is me! It could be a photo taken by my wife – I promise you that. So Souf Efrikan! Welcome to the club brother.

Now send me your photo or story and I’ll slot it into your special post. That a threat… I mean a promise. Come one – you know you have a little bit of Souf Efrikan in you. We all do. Loud and proud baby!

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Note to Skuttlefish: Thanks for being a braver man than me. I don’t think I would have given me a photo! Thank you boet. You made me realize just how similar we are – accents or not. Just people hey?

Note on being a Souf Efrikan: You don’t have to have a drink in your hand. It helps coping with being a Souf Efrikan, but it isn’t a prerequisite – at least not for the more secular Souf Efrikans. Just think of something that is slightly odd and not what is seen as “normal” behaviour. It could be anything. From too much sugar in your coffee to wearing your pants too high! Or making too much food when cooking “just in case”. To one of those crazy family gatherings. A fancy dress. A stupid hat you just don’t want to get rid of. That rusty pickup you drive. A silly photo taken on holiday or with the kids. You buried in sand. You almost drowning. Your mouth stuffed with food. That passport photo you want to burn. The dress your mother forced you to wear when you were six. Anything really. Anything that you look back on or your family looks at and goes – that’s just so silly. And so you. Souf Efrikans are pretty plain people. No airs. As straight as you can get. But willing to try anything for a laugh. I know there is a Souf Efrikan in you. Just get me a picture, tell me when/how/where it was taken and I will tell the story! But make sure some part of you are in the photo. I don’t need the face (in case you don’t want to show that), but I need something to rip off! Come on! You can do it!

I can’t believe she did it. Hanging our dirty laundry out for everyone to see… You cut me deep. Real deep baby. She decided to spill the beans on my cooking ability. My fight with a chicken. And I lost… Barbeque Chicken 1 : 0 Angry African. Here is the (not so lovely grrr) wife making me suffer about my speciality Incinerated Chicken – Family Recipe. But still. It is damn funny! Enjoy!

I will have my revenge… (laughing like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers… fading slowly into background.)

Look, from an American sporting perspective I am pretty happy to be living in Boston. The Red Sox won the World Series. Again. The Patriots are still the team to beat after so many Super Bowl wins and finals in the last few years. The Celtics made history in basketball when they whipped the Lakers for the crown this year. The Revolutions are top of the league in soccer after making the finals for 3 years in a row. Hell, even the Bruins improved this year on the ice. Yep, it is pretty good to be in Boston if you like American sport. Or what they call sport.

But Americans really don’t play any sport. Oh they call it sport, but it really isn’t. American football (known incorrectly as Gridiron by some) are really only played by bunch of wimps. So much steroids, protective gear and stop-and-start kinda play that they look more like Transformers running low on batteries. Basketball is really just netball played by guys in over-sized pajama pants. Ice hockey is for guys who are too sober to get involved in a proper bar fight. Their soccer is watched by an average crowd of 7, including family, friends and coaching staff. And baseball is for guys who can’t play cricket.

Ah, cricket. Good old cricket. Nothing like watching the swing of the willow sitting on the Oaks at Newlands. Have a braai and a beer (and Klippies offered by your neighbour). I miss good old cricket. It isn’t shown on television over here. Americans just don’t get it. Their eyes glass over when I try to explain that it is a game played for five days from 10 am to 6 pm with a lunch break and two tea breaks each day – and you are still not guaranteed a result. Except if it is England playing and you pretty much know they will lose. But Americans can’t handle anything that will potentially interfere with the trip to the mall or watching daytime soaps. Or work for that matter. Short attention span. They have ADD when it comes to cricket.

And they don’t get the names either. Here it is all blood and gore – Steelers, Cowboys, Jaguars, Giants, Bears and more in the NFL (football). The Devils, Thrashers, Hurricanes, Avalanche, Predators, Flames and more in the NHL (ice hockey). Fire, Revolution, Earthquakes and more in MLS (soccer). We have the Warriors, Hawks, Rockets, Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Raptors and more in the NBA (basketball). And MLB (baseball). Well, let’s just say that the Brewers, Royals, Twins, Blue Jays and Sox don’t quite have the same bite to it. And what the hell is an Oriole? Is it a breakfast or a bird? Can you imagine them being known by the proper Latin name – The Baltimore Icterus Galbula? Anyway… The Proteas just doesn’t have the same ring or sting to it when it comes to the more blood and gore type names Americans love so much. (Note to self – look if there is a link between President Bush’s approach to foreign policy and the violent names of American sport teams.)

But I follow the cricket. Especially now when South Africa is doing their yearly humiliation of England. (Did I hear anyone say 1 up?) Like I said, I can’t watch it. But I read it. On my mobile phone. Via the live texting of the BBC. It is brilliant. Not the actual cricket, but the commentating. I know South Africa will win, but I keep on following the live texts because of the sense of humor and descriptions given by the BBC team. They are really special. Got to love the English for that. They might be getting their backsides kicked by Kallis, Ntini, Prince and the gang, but they sure know how to commentate. And keep you laughing all the way. It might be all they have left in sport – a good sense of humor. The play cricket, rugby and soccer like a bunch of clowns in any case.

I now check the updates every hour or so. It’s less about the cricket score than the wisdom and wise cracks from the BBC team. I want to share a few with you. It’ll hopefully give you an insight into British humor. Unfortunately it won’t help you understand cricket any more than eating a burger will help you drive better. There is no link. But I hope you enjoy these. I’ll might try to update these over the next few days. Now, sit back and enjoy the company of the BBC cricket commentators – in their words. It all started with their first text update this morning… (It’s in UK time and remember to read it in a ‘proper’ English accent.

And Nel takes another England wicket...

And Nel takes another England wicket...

10:33 – New Kid’s out on his ear because he upset ‘team unity’ (is the England dressing room actually some delicate eco-system?) and Colly’s back on the back of a few runs in a Twenty20 knockabout. If I was Owais Shah or Ravi Bopara, not only would I be a different colour, I’d be a little bit irritated as well.

It’s all so chummy, I wouldn’t be surprised if the England team all bundled round Vaughany’s mum and dad’s house for a pyjama party after today’s play. Maybe Colly’s back in the side because he can get his hands on Porky’s?

11:28 – The man to the left of me has just pulled out a plum of a lookalike – Morkel and 1980’s ‘Brat Pack’ stalwart Anthony Michael Hall. If you were to stretch Morkel on a rack like a Catholic martyr, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

Vaughny was pricklier than the famed Jungle Book paw-paw in his Aggers interview. He said it with a laugh but it was saucer of milk for table two stuff.

11:54 – Plenty of empty seats at Edgbaston, not sure why that is. It’s got all the atmosphere of a nursing home Christmas party at the moment.

12:06 – Nel – or is it Gunther? – strolls down the wicket and spits a few verbals Cook’s way. I’ve got to be honest, Nel seems more simple than intimidating. It must be like batting against Lennie from Of Mice and Men. He drags another one in short – not sure why he keeps doing that, this pitch has the consistency of a lemon drizzle cake.

12:16 – A few more strokes like that and the ball will be speaking the Queen’s English.

Send back the defibrillators, I think this pitch might already be dead…

12:36 – Umpire Dar had no doubts, although Vaughan looks at him as though he’s just found him heavy petting with his mother on the sofa as he leaves the field.

12:46 – Cook gropes at an away-cutter from Nel and the South African paceman grins maniacally, like a staggering drunk who’s just seen up a lady’s skirt.

13:39 – I have o report that the England skipper is getting absolutely slaughtered in your email, anyone would think he’d nutted the pope.

13:59 – Another wicked delivery from Morkel Cook nibbling before pulling his bat out of the way as if he’s just been caught with his hands in his mother’s handbag.

14:12 – He actually has pretty good figures in test and first-class cricket but he’s had about as much cutting edge as a jam roly-poly in this series so far.

14:16 – If Graeme Smith is the nasty prison governor from Shawshank Redemption, Nel is the bully-club wielding prison guard.

14:25 – I’d hate to be there when something genuinely bad actually happens to Nel – he reacted to Bell hitting that four as if he’s just seen his car. Nel lets out a primeval roar – Gunther is clearly a very angry man.

14:42 – This England team reminds me of when I used to want to hang about with my older brother and his mates when I was a kid. My brother used to tolerate me, but you could tell he never really wanted me there. I got a bit choked up writing that.. such sad memories…

14:52 – Nel roars in Smith’s direction – Smith better watch his back, drop another catch and Nel will make his ears into a necklace.

15:00 – There’s former England skipper Graham Taylor in the stand – black shades, black shirt, white tie, he looks like he’s going to pull out a Tommy gun and start strafing the South African fielders.

15:05 – And he’s tighter than the elephant man’s hatband today.

15:11 – Thank God for that, watching the Durham man trying to get off the mark was like watching open heart surgery.

15:18 – The Durham man staggers out of his crease like a man emerging from solitary confinement.

15:26 – Does anyone else feel like trying to understand the England selectors is like banging your head against a brick wall whilst wearing a straight jacket and being held upside down in a vat of marmalade?

15:37 – As an England fan, I would rather smash my arm repeatedly in a car door than watch much more of this…

15:43 – Ambrose – another in the England batting line-up who makes Bill Wyman look like Gary Sobers at the moment. Old Nel is madder than a box of frogs.

… that’s tea. I’m sure it will be a cosy one in the England dressing room, all chums together sharing out the Werther’s Originals and telling tales of the 2005 Ashes series. I can just imagine Vaughany leaning forward in his armchair like Uncle Albert and proclaiming every now and again: “During the 2005 Ashes…” I wonder if they’ve got an open fire up there?

16:04 – Regarding the reference to the Elephant Man, whatever happened to him, he made on good film and no-one’s seen him since?

16:13 – Surely a couple of Ambrose failures here will lead him to being dropped – the Warwickshire gloveman looks like he’s been batting with an upright hoover for most of this summer.

16:19 – Nel chuntering down to the deep mid-wicket rope like a startled rhinoceros.

16:35 – Watching Flintoff having to bat like this makes for rather painful viewing, it’s like Maradona playing at full-back.

16:49 – Nel licks his fingers and grins, like a naughty boy who’s just polished off a sticky bun.

17:11 – Watching these two batsmen scratch away, I just had the sudden urge to start singing Onward Christian Soldiers. I’ve also got this image in my head of Freddie and Ambrose under siege in a dilapidated building, poking their heads round the corner every few minutes to fire a couple of shots.

17:30 – Good job Ntini ducked or his team-mates would have had to rechristen him Anne Boleyn.

17:37 – If you’d have believed my nan, her glory years were spent wearing a tin helmet in a coal shed fending off rats the size of rottweilers while the German bombs fell all around her. A deeply miserable woman, she didn’t tend to go out much after the War ended.

17:47 – Most of the England players are looking a little bit sheepish in the field, like schoolboys shuffling nervously outside the headmaster’s office awaiting to hear their fate.

18:02 – The South Africa openers could only look more relaxed if they were basted in butter.

18:05 – A day spent browsing for ceiling tiles in B&Q would have raised the spirits higher than this.

End of day 1… With the South Africans way on top. England all out for 230 and South Africa sitting pretty at 38 for one. Now, where is that beer and braai

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Well, 4th of July just passed. And the celebrations could be seen all around us. Flags flying, parades everywhere and fireworks to scare the cats – and kids. And it made me wonder – what does it mean to be a patriot?

We were sitting outside having a barbeque. American style. Burgers and all. Pretty American on 4th of July. Just us South Africans and an Aussie friend. Anyway… Our backyard neighbors were having their own party. Big family gathering. Even bigger griller. And meat to feed an army. At least a few divisions. And it went on and on. The crowd kept on growing and the noise kept on rising. We didn’t have a problem with it. They were having fun. Good clean fun. (And we loved the fireworks later in the evening – all courtesy of our partying neighbors.) And then we noticed the balloons.

Big balloons. All in the American colors. Red, white and blue. Stars and stripes everywhere. Almost every chair had a few of them tied to the back. Flying in the wind. This new type of flag. My wife and myself looked at each other and laughed. A very typical thing for us – we know each other way too well already! We said it at almost the same time, “I bet you those balloons were made in China!”

She won the right to blog on the “Made in China” joke. I really can’t say no to her. But it made me think of China. Again. And on the meaning of being proud of your country. Being a patriot.

And no. It wasn’t the “Free Tibet” flags that was made in China that made me think of China. It was my recent chats with a few Chinese in China that made me realize they are very proud of their country. Well, most of them anyway. Wherever I went they told me so. How they love their country and how proud they are of how China is developing. And, of course, the Beijing Olympics. For them the Olympics was about the Chinese people and not the Chinese government. A chance for us to meet China and the Chinese people. For them it was about them and their country. And not their government. I know, the Chinese government really secured the Olympics – not the people. But it still made sense. I know how it felt.

I have always loved my country. And my people. But I wasn’t always that proud of my government. The Apartheid government was not a regime to be proud of. Trust me. They weren’t. But I always loved my country. The mountains, the rivers, everything. And I really loved my people. It was an easy call. I loved my country. I loved my people. And I still saw myself as a patriot. I would defend my country and my people. But not my government. They were corrupt. In every sense of the word. If they asked me to go to war I would say no. If they asked me to vote in their rigged elections I wouldn’t. I would not listen to them and I would not support them in anything. But I would defend my country and my people. In my way. By protesting against the Apartheid regime. By speaking out when ever I got the chance. I would defy them. And challenge them. Because I was a patriot.

Over here in America people are asking the patriotism question. Again. And I am not just talking about Obama. Whether him wearing a flag or not makes him more or less patriotic. Like everyone wears that each day. Go do a Google search on the Mac and see how many times he wears one. Being a vet does not give you a free pass. Or at least I don’t think so. But this isn’t about Obama. Maybe only in an indirect way. The questions about him being American and being a patriot triggered some initial thoughts. But it isn’t about him. No, it’s about people who are claiming to be more patriotic than the next.

Supporting the war. That makes you a patriot. Being against gay marriages. That makes you a patriot. Not criticising President Bush. That makes you a patriot. Saying it is okay to hold people without trail and (maybe) torturing them. That makes you a patriot. Being in favour of subsidies for big oil but against universal health care. That makes you a patriot. Being Republican. Being conservative and against liberals. Listening to Rush and Bill. Watching Fox. Pro-flag. Anti-protests. And so on. And so on. It all makes you a patriot.

Or does it?

Were you a patriot if you supported the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII? Or were you a patriot when you tried to speak out against it? Were you a patriot when you supported segregation? Or were you a patriot when you acted against it? Were you a patriot when you lynched blacks and burned crosses and churches all over? Or were you a patriot when you marched against it? Were you a patriot when you supported a war to get rid of weapons of mass destruction? Or were you a patriot when you protested against a war with little evidence to support the claims of the President? Are you a patriot when you support a war no matter what the reasons? Or are you a patriot when you believe you can support the soldiers and still not agree with the war? Are you a patriot when you say other Americans are not American enough because they do not agree with everything you do or say? Or are you a patriot when you say that being an American means celebrating and loving diversity of all kinds – religion, color, languages, political thoughts, food and even stupid bloody movies?

You decide. I am not here to tell you what patriotism means in America. I can only tell you what it means for me as a South African. It means loving my country. Believing in my people. Caring for those around me. Looking after our land and the animals who live there. And speaking out when my government is unjust. Or just plain wrong. They are not my country. They are not my people. They do not stand for what my country stand for. Or at least not what the majority of us want our country to stand for. They are our government. They come and go. The people, the land and the spirit that make us never die. The meaning of being South African never come and go. It is more than the sum of us. It is that intangible meaning of us.

I am a patriotic South African when I disagree with my government when they are wrong. I am a patriot when I speak out against stupid decisions made by my government. I was a patriot when I protested against the government during Apartheid. I am a patriot when I speak out and protest against my government when I believe they are not being true to what we want our country to stand for – freedom, tolerance, equality and celebrating our diversity. And all the other good stuff.

And don’t confuse the patriotism bit with loving it or being proud of it. I love my children. But I am not proud of them when they do something wrong. I still love them. I still care for them. Deeply and without question. No less than before. But I also know I have to remind them of the rules. Our rules. Rules of respect, love and hard work. It does not make me less of a dad just because they need to know when I am disappointed with them. I tell them. But I also tell them I love them no less. I love them. I care for them. But I can’t always be proud of them. But I can be even more proud of them when they make right what they did wrong. That makes me love them even more. When they hold up their hands and say, “Yeah, I was wrong. Sorry dad.”

But driving a car made in Japan? Wearing clothes made in India? Eating food grown in Mexico? Drinking coffee grown in Ethiopia? Buying gas imported from Saudi Arabia? Reading books written by an Englishman? Watching a French movie? Having balloons made in China?

I don’t know. I like it when I see something made in South Africa. But I don’t buy it just because it is made in South Africa. I buy it (or not) because of many reasons – price, quality, taste, smell, functionality etc. Whatever. I buy it when I can. But I won’t buy a SUV just because it was made in South Africa. I’ll buy the less thirsty car made wherever.

A patriot. What is it? You decide. Because you make it. You build your country with every decision you make. The easy decisions and the difficult ones. They all count. There is no end. You build it every day. America is different from what it was a 100 years ago. Every single day you are still working on it. Keeping the good bits alive. And turning it into something new and making it relevant for society today. No end game. It’s not a game. It a journey. With no end destination. And every step counts. Every person count.

Every American count. Every American equals one brick. And you decide how strong you want this structure called America to be. You place your brick. You make it strong or you make it weak. It isn’t easy. And it has never been easy to build this great nation. It wasn’t easy to fight the British for independence. It wasn’t easy to free the slaves. It wasn’t easy to give women voting rights. It wasn’t easy to fight in WWII. It wasn’t easy to end segregation. It wasn’t easy to pull out of Vietnam. But it was the right thing to do.

Are you a patriot? Just wait before you answer. First ask yourself what does it mean to be a patriot? Define it. Look around and ask if this is what your fellow countrymen mean by it? Do you agree with it? What is your America? Happy you got all the info you need? Good. Now answer it. Are you a patriot?

Just don’t forget to look in the mirror when you answer.

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I am a traitor. A traitor to my country. To my countrymen. To South Africa. To my beloved South Africa. And to every South African out there in my home country. I hang my head in shame.

It started off innocently. Like all sins. Like all traitors. I did it once. It was easy. I did it in South Africa. When no one was looking. I actually felt good about it the first time. My wife didn’t notice. My daughter was to young. They trusted me. But I just wanted to give them everything they wanted. I did it for them. And I did it again. And again. And again.

Some of my friends started noticing. They looked at me with new eyes. They knew I was wrong. That I am going to a dark place. And that it can never be forgiven. But they were my friends. And friends stand together. Stand together even in the difficult and impossible times. In those dark days when you know you should say something. But you don’t. Because the shame would be too much. So I moved away from South Africa. Because of this dark past of mine. I just couldn’t look my friends and countrymen in the eyes anymore. Because I know they knew. And those who didn’t will find out sooner or later. And they wouldn’t react the same way as my friends did. No. For them it would be too much. For them I would be nobody. Nothing. They would disown me. I could lose my citizenship for this. And that could well be the least horrid thing that could happen to me. I know of people who disappeared and never showed up again. For South Africans it is the sin of all sins. Treason…

And now. Now I have gone down the deep end. I stayed away from it in England. I did the little things. You know. Just to stay afloat. Just to take the easy road. But never the big sin. I thought I was at least strong enough not to cave in to that. No one will forgive that. No friend will look the other way. Not this. Not this. I am ashamed. Because… Because…

 I bought a gas barbecue…

Yes. Yes. I did. I bought the Perfect Flame Three Burner Gas Grill. And she is powerful – 42,000 BTU’s. A full 640 square inches cooking area. Push and turn ignition. Can you believe that? Push and turn ignition. Porcelain heat tent AND porcelain cast-iron cooking surface. And here is the big one… 28 burger capacity! This baby sings. Whooo-oo!

You might think this is funny. But it isn’t. Not for any South African man reading this. I can just see them reading this. Shaking their heads, winching as if hit by a sucker-punch and saying either “Eish“, “Donner“, or “Jislaaik boet. That’s no joke man“. For them I am not a man anymore. Not a true man. I have gone soft. But more than that. I have denied my heritage. My blood. My South African roots. The fire. The braai.

We don’t call it a barbeque. No. We call it a braai. But a barbecue isn’t a braai. No way dude. There are very strict rules that apply to a braai. Break any of these rules and you might just as well start running. Away from South Africa. And as far as possible and as fast as possible. Because the braai police (Fierce Braai Inspectors – FBI) will come and hunt you don’t. And they won’t stop until you denounce your citizenship. Oh, they have their ways and means to get you to do that. It involves fire…

These are serious things we are talking about. South African men and the braai. You can talk about politics. But the Democrats and Republicans are like two lovers on a first date compared to South Africans and messing with their braai. And you can talk about sport. But the Yankees and Red Sox? Puh-lease. Kids stuff. Mess with the braai and you mess with the most primitive parts of the South African soul.

We can argue politics in South Africa. It doesn’t matter. As long as we can sit around the fire and have our braai together. We can support Chiefs or Pirates, Province or Bulls, argue about rugby or cricket or soccer being the best – but we are united around a braai. But there are rules. And if you break those rules… You are an ex-South African. You are so outta there. Faster than you can say “light me”.

I won’t go into the culture or rules of a braai. That needs a blog on it’s own. It makes chess look like Tic Tac Toe. I’ll just give you a quick insight to the BOERIE Hardware Section – the first two rules. (BOERIE stands for Braai Official Executive Rules In English – not to be confused with the Boerie which is a South African braai sausage).

Rule 1: Get wood

Always, but always braai with wood. And I mean always. No really. Always.

The biggest braai debate in South Africa is not whether to use wood or not. That is a given. The biggest argument is about what wood to use. Rooikrans or Wingerdstompies? Two different types of wood. One from a specific tree and the other from the vineyards. I won’t even go into what I used when I was still straight. But, you see, gas is out completely. My original sin was to use charcoal. And that is bordering on treason. It can tear families apart. We even call it donkey.. hum… droppings… (Donkiedrolle.) Charcoal… That was my first step into the dark side of the braai.

Rule 2: Bricks and mortar

You can’t just use anything to braai in either. No sirree. You need to have an area that is build with the same stuff you build your house with – bricks and mortar. Designs vary. Some have a small little squad braai a few inches off the ground. Others have a whole room developed just around this braai with with multiple braai areas and storage sections. There is one exception to this rule (or First Amendment) – the oil drum rule. You are allowed to braai in an empty oil drum cut in half. You can modify this, but it must always be clearly defined and recognized as an oil drum. I mean really. Even a Weber is seen as going over the edge. I used a Weber AND charcoal back in South Africa. That wasn’t edgy. That was just plain stupid. Denying my people. Denying who I was. People frowned. So you can imagine what my gas griller will do to South Africans – especially South African men.

There are other BOERIE Hardware Rules, but these are the first two. And the foundation of any braai. It’s like free speech and gun ownership in the USA. Without those two there can be no America. Without wood and a bricks and mortar braai you can not call it a braai. And without a braai you can’t call yourself South African. You’re just a guy burning some meat. And if you were born in South Africa? You’re a burned guy and a piece of meat.

So you see. I am a traitor. The people in South Africa is ashamed of me. They will deny knowing me. They will call me names. They will tell their children and the children of their children what happens to people when they leave the hallowed shores of South Africa. The softening of African men. The shame it brings to families. The weakening of the bloodline. The acts of a traitor…

I am sorry my fellow South Africans. I am truly sorry. I beg you for forgiveness. I am but a weak man. Who gave in to temptation. A man who knows to little. A pathetic excuse of a man.

And don’t forget lazy. The gas griller is just so much easier. No firelighters needed – or as we call it blitz. Just push and turn baby. And bam! I got fire. No smokey eyes. No flicking matches. No burned fingers. No wet wood. No spark flying. No waiting for the wood to turn to coal and ash. No ash blowing in the wind. No burned meat. Or ash tasting meat. No bricks cracking and popping in the heat. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Just push and turn baby. Just push and turn.

Note: Can someone tell the guys at Lowe’s to please tell South Africans that the gas tank (liquid propane tank) they buy with the gas grill is actually empty? It took me an hour of connecting and disconnecting, pushing and turning, checking and wiggling, before I realized that the tank they gave me was empty. I went to Home Depot to get a full one… And yes, we ate hours later. It would have been faster just using wood I guess.

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