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I worked almost all the time I was in Swaziland. The New Hope Center is on the outskirts of Manzini and I never actually went into the city. So, it's safe to say, most of my adventures in Swaziland centered around African food.

There was advanced warning from the New Hope Center that we probably wouldn't like Swazi food. So, Coenie and I were advised to prepare our own meals. That would not be as hard as you might fear. There was a really nice grocery store not far from the center, KFC was a national favorite, and Coenie had a braai. (Remember, that's a barbeque if you aren't South African.)

The main food staple in southern Africa was corn meal. It wasn't the yellow kind of meal Americans use for corn bread. In fact, yellow corn was considered inferior. It's strange how tastes like that develop. I always prefer yellow corn for no other reason than that's what my mother always used.

Anyway, white corn meal was used in a variety of ways. The meal looked similar to the wheat flour I was used to. There were three ways to prepare it to make porridge, or "pap" in Afrikaans. The amount of water used was the only difference. If a lot of water was used, the cook made slap pap (pronounced slop pop). It was as smooth as mashed potatoes. And, you ate it with your meal the same way, but there was no butter or gravy. So, not only did it taste good, but it had to be healthier. Cook with a little less water and you ended up with stywe pap (the "w" sounds like a "v" in Afrikaans). The resulting corn meal was a little stiffer. It was similar to chunks of rice that stuck together. And then, there was krimmel pap (the only one I can pronounce). It had nearly no water. You cooked the corn meal and slowly added water. It had a crumbly texture. Eaten with a tomato sauce with vegetables, it was delicious.

However, there was another way to eat krimmel pap. It was also used as a breakfast cereal. If you poured on warm milk and mixed in the sugar, the mixture was sweet and milky, but it still tasted like white sand. It didn't matter how much milk and sugar was added. Sand was sand. Someone told me I should have added butter. I'm quite sure that butter would not help sand taste any better. I never ate it again.

Actually, while I was in Swaziland, I did eat the local food a couple of times. The stywe pap had a vegetable dish poured over it. I liked it. But, then there was the cornmeal mixed with sour milk. Need I say anything about that? More than anything else in Swaziland, I liked what Coenie prepared with his braai. As I said, there was so much good meat to be had!

There was no secret recipe with eleven herbs and spices to create a good braai in southern Africa. Perhaps I'd never looked closely enough in grocery stores around the world. (There was really a good chance of that.) However, I'd never seen meat pre-marinated and ready to go on the braai except in South Africa. So, if you'd like what Coenie could do with chicken, all you had to do is go to the market. Well, then you'd have to cook it. Fortunately, I did get a few tips.

1. If you braai with charcoal, let the coals burn until they are entirely red before adding meat to the grill. If you cook with wood (which I was told is the better way to go) you must wait until the flames are below the grill.
2. If you cook lamb (which I don't think I've ever had in America) it is really good if you flavor it with a lot of lemon juice and braai salt. Now, if you never heard of braai salt, and you can't find it, the regular stuff will have to do.
3. Round steak tastes good when basted with a combination of olive oil and Worscestershire sauce.
Those are the only tips I received. I saw teenagers successfully grill meat while in Potchefstroom. So, I'm assuming that it's not impossible. I've just never used a braai or barbeque . . . yet.
Copyright 2010 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.