Food is food, and eating is eating. Right?
Roughly speaking, Google states Boerekos to be a plate of food containing rice, meat, potatoes and a veggie (mostly pumpkin, apparently) typical to South Africa. Oh yes, and a gravy (not necessarily mentioned). A thick gravy preferably, not the ‘watery’ type of UK gravies (personal opinion). Normally followed with a warm dessert such as sago, bread pudding, or such.
This differs rather from quick stir-fry’s and other typical easy healthy meals you might find on DSTV or internet (In particular, the Germans might have several words to say about serving rice as well as potatoes on the same plate). (Funny – Hubby is German descendant and he WANTs potatoes and rice on the same plate!)
The Google Boerekos description/s do not really combine Braai, unless you look up Braai separately – also proudly South African. Nor does it then include Biltong. Personally, I would also put Braai and Biltong as part of a Boerekos description. However, lately we use Biltong especially as delicatessen probable due to cost, but this was after all also a main meat item on the plate as ‘food’ for the old types of boere*.
I think, we might have to re-invent our own description of Boerekos; because there seems to be no real consensus as what this entails?
These wayward/belated descriptions above of Boerekos, do clash a bit with most health diets nowadays e.g. no potato and rice on the same plate/ or braai broodjies and potato salad/ mielies and rice salad together, meat and potatoes in one meal is a no-go and so on (but who knows, every decade or less all healthy foods get reclassified). It also, mostly reflects ‘traditional boere cuisine’ – I presume this to mean traditional boere* centuries ago travelling over the Drakensberge, and not the loosely (political) term ‘boer’ lately used.
Since I recently joined an ‘Ou Boerekos Resepte’ FB (and what utmost Joy from this page!) I have dusted many old recipes and forgotten recipe books in my cupboards. Many I have forgotten about and enjoy trying again. In particular, it fired up again my imagination/creativity–‘genes’. Some recipes even date back – with originations - to the 40’s (and I increasingly wonder why I have gathered them over the years, and still have and use them).
As a child, I hated Boerekos.
I am from a large maternal family (Mum being the youngest of 9 children, whom each also had more than 2 children, and so on). We regularly had family gatherings. What a schlep… I much rather wanted to visit with my friends, and do things ‘normal’ children do; instead of being forced to attend these get-togethers ( The worst part, in recollecting, was all the questions during these together’s – “Do you have a boyfriend yet? How many children do want to have? Pull down your shirt, no decent lady shows her stomach!” I still feel judged! I was only 13 that last time and still remember the fight that ensued. Get with the times, why do we have to be the only old-fashioned family in the whole town?)
The biggest of these family get-togethers, was the once-a-year celebrating of grandma’s birthday. This tradition still continues to this day (grandma died in the 1980’s), the children and grandchildren still coming together over this time to celebrate being family. Well, obviously we don‘t exactly follow the same celebrations (or recipes or eating habits). There is no way, in today’s times, also living so far from each other; all of us can actually take a whole week off simply to gather, laugh and eat till you plonk down!
As I say, I really hated Boerekos (In retrospect, mostly the feelings it invoked in me as teenager and later as young adult. I really do not know how to explain or describe how much I hated the food and all the emotional connotations I had with these foods). Please bear with the feelings, I do have a point eventually).
I also struggled with the amount of foods which was presumably consumed! I struggle to remember the people, but remember all the constant eating. Cakes morning noon and night, stews, braais, you name it, it could become a bit much for a teenager especially. Especially when you enter into the developmental stage where you start comparing your family with your friends’ families… (And try to stay slim and sexy for the rugby captain…)
I also did not understand why you had to slave in a kitchen for so many hours. I mean, wasn’t there a life to live also, for women, outside the kitchen? All I saw, was all these women, constantly in a kitchen. As a woman, was I doomed to live the rest of my life in front of a stove and, washing dishes?
I developed a total aversion to being in the kitchen. Against cakes. Against family. Against visitors. Against eating till you need to see a Doctor. I could not understand why ‘Aunt Sanni’ complained of being overweight then still stuffed herself with 2nd and 3d helpings. Or why all the women had to stay in the kitchen the whole day long, while the men outside enjoyed themselves at the braai drinking beers.
Well, since then I did manage to find quick and easy recipes, after all, girl’s gotta eat and survive. And Take-Aways’ only go so far, till not (especially if you live in a rural area and become a ‘farmer’s wife).
Today’s times, I enjoy experimenting with foods and dishes (I even do fabulous catering when required), but still hate when it is ‘expected’ of women to do kitchen duty (no wonder I find men with aprons or, who can cook, rather sexy!!! ) Not sure how I ended up with a husband who thinks one Braai means he fulfilled his cooking duty for the week LoL.
I think, my childhood experiences with Boerekos versus becoming a (mild…) feminist, really clashed with my growing-up stage experiences. But, maybe, it contributed.
But since all then, I do wonder why do I still, and increasingly, make Boerekos?! ( My so-called Feminism paid off, so that is not the issue).
Every country, has cuisine specific to them. Boerekos developed from all the input from al of settlers and people moving into and living in SA. By the way, where do you think, pap and sheba comes from…? Our ancestors lived from the land so to say, and used what was available; and drew from all around.
Boerekos, is today still actually a cheaper way of feeding a lot of people. We might think it otherwise, but think again. Most of the items you already stock, the rest is mostly imagination and knowledge what to do with it.
It also does not really mean living in the kitchen the whole day. A lamb roast, for example, does itself. You do the initial preening, but he really can cook himself for the rest.
Left-overs. Boerekos has so many ways of addressing this!
I also discovered people actually enjoy hanging around in the kitchen. It is rather a place where people get together and cozy around (My own house, some day, will have a massive kitchen and fire place, bugger the lounge).
Fortunately, at this stage, I feel less guilty when I mix up recipes. Since Boerekos resulted from ‘survival’, using what the land provides, and imaginatively putting things together, you not only feed a lot of people and revamp left-overs, but you can also here and there grab from other cultures.
The main thing for me myself at this stage, is the memories pertaining to the Boerekos I make. I think, I passed possible negative memories – in fact, I learned a lot from them.
Ever watched the Animation ‘Ratatouille’? If not, please do!!
I think, at the end of the movie you might find some answers what good food actually means.
I myself swoon over Sushi, and Mediterranean grilled veggies. But - It’s too often the memories invoked, which makes the actual perfect dish. And for me, this is what Boerekos provides….(over and above it being extremely Yummy).
I have mentioned thru-out this Blog my memories re foods, being teen-ager, family-gatherings, and Boerekos.
I think, Boerekos should simply be, foods our parents/grandparents prepared, also
learned from their parents, and their parents before that. We don’t need any Google Wiki’s or other pages to state what Boerekos should or shouldn’t be.
More than that, when we prepare and eat foods, we remember our childhoods:
We remember the smells in our mothers’ kitchen, licking the icing from the cake bowls, being taken care of, being loved, and living in simpler times. Times when being naughty in the classroom did not earn you a label of for example ADHD, but rather a hiding from the school master. When raiding the neighbour’s peach tree, was considered typical of growing up (even while giving your parents grey hair) – but not necessarily criminal. Times when chatting and sharing ‘life’ at meal times, instead of constantly checking your cell phone.
Food is not only being clever with recipes or spices. We can all, also redo recipes we inherited from our ancestors,
Boerekos is rather special. Yes, it is great in its own way but more than that –
Next time you ask what Boerekos is about, remember Boerekos is also –