From bredie, biltong to braai: Tracing the roots of South Africa's meat history

Dr Sara Erasmus and Prof Louw Hoffman from the Department of Animal Sciences at Stellenbosch University have studied the development of the South African meat cuisine and traced its roots back to the Dutch settlers, Indo-Asian slaves, indigenous Khoisan (pastoral Khoikhoi/Hottentots and foraging San/Bushmen), and Black African groups.

Erasmus joined 702's Azania Mosaka to discuss the origins of South Africa's intricate meat cuisine.

The researcher explains that while writing an article on meat in South Africa, they had to go back in time to determine how historical and cultural groups influenced the country's cuisine and consumption.

We have to go back to the days of colonialism when different populations/ethnic groups with different incomes, cultures and perceptions of what meat is and how it should be prepared and consumed, were introduced and developed in South Africa.

Dr. Sara Erasmus, postdoctoral researcher, from the Department of Animal Sciences at Stellenbosch University

Scientifically, you have a definition what meat is - what it includes and excludes.

Dr. Sara Erasmus, postdoctoral researcher, from the Department of Animal Sciences at Stellenbosch University

She says what they also found in their research is that the first inhabitants of South Africa used to cut up their meat and air dry or roast it over a fire which has influenced the country's love and culture of biltong and braaing.

The Cape Malay people brought an Indonesian flair with their spicy curries which contributed to the creation of typical dishes such asbredie (stew), pickled fish and bobotie (spiced minced meat bake), while the 19th century Indian labourers also introduced curried meat dishes to South Africa says Erasmus.

Bredies were also developed through the need to tenderise the tough meat of cattle obtained from the Khoikhoi, while the inclusion of curry and spices were particularly useful to disguise slightly tainted meat.

Dr. Sara Erasmus, postdoctoral researcher, from the Department of Animal Sciences at Stellenbosch University

Erasmus is a postdoctoral researcher and Hoffman a distinguished professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Stellenbosch University. Hoffman also holds the SARChI Chair in Meat Sciences in partnership with Prof Voster Muchenje of the University of Fort Hare.

The findings of their study were published recently in Animal Frontiers.

Listen to the clip below for more on SA’s meat cuisine history:


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