A homage to the humble boerewors

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I’m all for globalisation, the mixing of cultures, the idea of the city as ‘melting pot’. After all, who wants to eat fish and chips every day? Or meat and two veg?

But sometimes globalisation gives me the shits.

Shopping in Woolworths last weekend. Grand final weekend. I’m picking up something to take to the barbecue.

As if it’s bred into my genes, my old South African eyes lock in on a coil of sausage behind clingwrap.

Boerewors” it says. No, it proclaims proudly!

“Yes please!” (I chant to myself).

Anyone who has spent anytime in South Africa, will know that you can’t have a barbecue (or ‘braai‘) in the homeland without this humble sausage sizzling away alongside a few giant steaks, chicken kebabs, pap and Castle Lager.

For Australian natives, think this combination: football, beer and meat pie.

The word ‘boerewors’ is Afrikaans, the language spoken by Afrikaners (the descendents of the original Dutch settlers to the Cape in 1652) famous for lots of great things (rugby, Francois Pienaar, Charlize Theron, Ernie Else, the first heart transplant) and some not so “lekker” things (apartheid, Oscar Pistorius, PW Botha).

But the boerewors is certainly one of their finest inventions and one that all South Africans, black, white, expat, coloured, indian have incorporated into their cultures and exported to far flung places. It’s uniquely South African, as the Lamington is to Australia and pavlova is to New Zealand.

The word actually translates as: boere (farmer’s) wors (sausage), which now that I think about it throws up some rather silly jokes and images I’ve not thought of up until now.

But, no, no, no and no! The boerewors is sacred. It is delectable a mix of delicious fatty meats and spices. It’s heaven in a sausage.

But, back to the boerewors on the shelf at Woolies and my temporary annoyance with globalisation.

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Just look at the packaging! Made by the British Sausage Company. But even worse: Uniquely Australian!

WHAT???

Not a mention of South Africa or farmers or apartheid. Not a boer insight.

I shake my fists in the supermarket. I consider stealing all the boerewors packets on the shelf, justified in my mind by the lack of respect that has been shown.

But, I calm down. Gather myself. And think about boerewors.

My stomach and taste buds win in the end. I buy the damn thing, take it to the barbeque, cook it, eat it and…

It’s simply sensational. At least those boerewors-loving Brits/Aussies got the recipe right.

I eat almost the entire coil and with heaving gut, think to myself: if it wasn’t for this bloody globalisation, I’d never get to eat the damn thing in the first place.

Throw another boerewors on the barbie, Shane!

(Turns out the ‘British Sausage Company’ is a butchery in Perth, no doubt of South African heritage).

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“I thought this was a kosher school, but I see it’s full of pigs” – memories of high school Afrikaans

Out of the blue, for no reason at all, I found myself recently thinking about my high school Afrikaans teacher, Mr H, a character from my school days in South Africa in the early 1990s.

Mr H was a short, little man with glasses, a thin moustache, balding and bloody terrifying – well that’s how I remember him – we’re talking 1990 or 1991!

His most famous line, one I will never forget until my dying day was yelled out one afternoon after lunch break, probably as we sat behind our desks listening to Mr H read out aloud, that old South African literary classic “Kringe in die bos” (Circles in the Forest) by Dalene Matthee.

Now, I should first point that we were all jewish kids at jewish day school in Johannesburg.

And I remember we had a double period at the end of the day, where we had to sit and listen to Mr H, in his posh Afrikaans read aloud, with dramatic pauses in all the right places, a story set in the Knysa forests about woodcutters and an elephant called “Old Foot”.

God help anyone who forgot their copy of “Kring in die bos” at home…God help anyone who did not prepare or do their homework.

Anyway, the words that leapt out of Mr H’s mouth one afternoon, in that dim classroom as we all probably thought about going home, or rugby, or girls or that new cartoon show, The Simpsons, and accompanied by the evilest look you can imagine were:

“I thought this was a kosher school, but I see its full of pigs!”

I don’t remember anyone laughing at the time, but we certainly laughed about it later. It was an outrageous thing to say and I wonder if it was a line he kept tucked in his back pocket for special occassions, because surely it could not just have come out fully formed like that.

Mr H was prone to quite a few outrageous one-liners, which I still remember quite vividly. One of his best lines and one said on a few occassions was:

“Barbare, morone, idiote”

Translation:

“Barbarians, morons, idiots”

Another, reserved for people who forgot their copies of ‘Kringe in die Bos’ or their homework:

“[insert classmates name]…do you want me to lick your arse for you too?”

Funny the things you remember from your school days!