There’s nothing quite like looking up at the stars in southern Africa. Even on the outskirts of a major city, the lack of light pollution on the continent means that you can see forever: the entire Milky Way becomes clear, and the colors of distant nebulae are made real, even to the naked eye. This wonderful view is why so many South Africans spend every night they can relaxing and sharing a meal under the stars.
This summer, you can create an outdoor look inspired by trends from the South African wine and barbeque country, and entertain your friends with a glass of cape Pinot Gris as the sun goes down.
What’s a braai?
A South African barbeque, also known as a braai, is something legendary. It’s more than putting meat on the grill, it’s about connecting with friends and family and sharing stories. A good braai takes time to create and time to enjoy, but it’s also something that happens a few times a week in every household in African summers.
A braai is also what we might call a potluck. It includes all different kinds of meats, from hearty steaks to marinated lamb to boerewors, a spicy sausage stuffed with both beef and pork, but it also includes every side dish you and your neighbors can dream up.
Start with the fire (and some meat on the grill)
The braai is all about the fire pit. Ideally, it’s where your meat is cooked as well as where you gather. South Africans are all about wood and charcoal flames, not gas heat. Creating the fire begins early so that it’s white hot by the time you place the meat on the grill. Marinate some steak when you light the first flame, and if you can’t find boerewors in your town, substitute merguez, chorizo, or spicy Italian sausage.
You can still have a separate barbeque for grilling your meat if that’s more convenient, but you may want to enjoy the relaxing glow of a fire pit for a more authentic braai experience in your backyard or on your deck. A braai fire isn’t about roasting marshmallows (although you can do that as well), but about creating the right ambiance for conversation.
Gather your friends and create outdoor comfort
You can’t relax under the stars without a comfy place to sit, lean back, and wonder in awe as you and your friends watch a meteor shower. You’ll want to give your friends some options outside of camp chairs so that they can look up at the sky without straining. Try a collection of matching, laid-back beanbag chairs that seat two, as if you were at a beach club, or conversation sets that have room to stretch out.
Try a color scheme that reflects the African veldt, with lots of deep red and gold accents to match the swaying grasses under the hot sun. Think about your garden or deck as an outdoor living room. Bring lots of pillows, and include a number of easy side-tables so that there are many places at hand for people to set down their food and wine.
And what about the wine? South Africa produces some of the best wine in the world, and its less expensive than its Australian counterparts. Although the country is known for its crisp and clean white wines, it also produces some lovely light reds. Have a tasting party at your braai and decide which ones you love the most.
End the night on a sweet note
Just when you thought you couldn’t eat any more, every braai ends with dessert. Try a melktert or a malva pudding for a new and different twist on something sweet. Then, all you have to do is let the conversation roll, and dream of the day when you can tour the South African wine country and see the stars.