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London - It’s an achievement which any true South African can recognise: to braai every day for a year come sun, rain, wind or snow.
And on Saturday expatriate Mat Hartley from Pietermaritzburg will accomplish just that in London when he lights a hog spit roast and throws boerewors on the braai to mark the 365th consecutive day of cooking outside in the unforgiving British outdoors.
Mat, 32, will join 300 other South Africans and other nationalities at a south London bar almost a year after he began the challenge set down by a group of friends in a pub.
Since then he has braaied every day, sometimes twice a day, whatever the weather and wherever he was.
He said: “I’m a South African so braaing is in my blood ever since my dad taught me how to do it. It’s been a bit of a challenge, thinking up recipes and fitting it in with day-to-day life and work – but it’s been fun.”
Mat thinks he has braaied around 420 times over the past 12 months, using three bags of charcoal a week at a cost of R262 and an average of R175 a day on food.
“Like any true South African, I braai with charcoal or wood – you can’t use gas, flicking a switch… where’s the skill in that?”
On Saturday, while he enjoys one of the UK’s hottest days of the year so far, he will reflect on the past 12 months, which have not been without their challenges. He has received criticism from animal rights campaigners via his website – catch him on www.braai365.com – for the amount of meat he eats.
He’s had to braai early morning in the freezing cold before work and cook on a Paris hotel window ledge after being upgraded to a better room without a balcony.
“I had a few exchanges with people about all the meat, but I’m a South African and that’s what we do. However, I did then try to source all my meat organically and ethically.
“Besides, part of the reason for the braai challenge is to raise money for rhino charities back in southern Africa.
“So far we’ve raised R122 000 and hope to get more, so they saw the other side of what I’m trying to achieve.
“The hotel ledge was maybe the most difficult. We’d gone to Paris in November to see the Springboks so I had to take a small foldaway braai and charcoal on the Eurostar.
“When we got to the hotel we were upgraded, which was great, but then it was to a room without a balcony so I ended up braaiing on the window ledge at 2am cooking broodjies and steak. Health and safety? None!
He was accompanied by girlfriend Michelle Campbell, 29, from Springs. “She’s been pretty supportive and besides, I am the new cook in the house.”
Independent Foreign Service