Sunday, 18 July 2010

Some like it hot

What is a traditional Christmas? Ask a European or a North American and their damp description will seem totally alien to our stinking hot annual beach fest. While we light fires to cook meat, they huddle around them to defrost their fingers. As we try and stave off sweat by splashing around the pool, they are scraping ice from the window frame while sipping hot toddies. When you are getting dunked by a wave, they are throwing snowballs at the geek who lives on the corner.

The debate has occurred often - which is a superior way to spend Christmas? Is it better to enjoy the wintery "traditional" end-of-year, or to hit the African coastline and bake for a few weeks?

Although we may enjoy the warmth that comes around our side during the festive time of year, and laugh at the wet and/or snowy conditions infesting the top half of the globe, we do have to deal with sunburn. I have very often spent Christmas day with my skin matching the deep red shades of Santa's jacket due to excessive beach hours and a flippant attitude to sun cream. There are no such dangers in Europe, the US or Canada as they don't see proper sun for at least another three months. At times I think it is great having the hot weather, but when I am sweating profusely in my bed at night (sleeping on my front so my burning back (covered in Aftersun) can get some peace) I do crave some respite from the heat. While we perspire into our sheets, our peers in the shady half of Earth are building snowmen.

There are many things that the Northern-hemisphereans pride themselves in, one of which is gluhwein (or mulled wine in the UK). For quite obvious reasons, drinking warm, sweet, fruity mush is not too smart in Durban in December as it would exacerbate the temperature within you and probably kick off an internal explosion. Consumption of it at minus-5 degrees in Germany is far less hazardous. However, can you beat an ice-cold beer or coke on a stunningly hot coastal day? As you twist the lid off your frosty, there is that gentle hiss that promises coolness. I can't think of any winter drink can that quite provides that same satisfaction. It is actually worth sitting in the sun and getting revoltingly hot to earn your drink properly.

A practicality that totally dumbfounds me is Father Christmas' attire in this disgustingly warm southern hemisphere weather. What kind of tonsil wears a big thick red suit in a South African summer? Poor Santa must swelter during his rounds down by our part of the world, particularly on the east coast. I've already written my Christmas letter this year, and included a recommendation that he rethinks his inappropriate (and, let's be honest, so-very-yesteryear) attire for the 2010 festive season.

There are a few who manage to cook a turkey on a braai, but my family are too stingy to buy a braai that's large enough. We rely on traditional South African vleis to accompany our Christmas potato-bake. Rolls of boerewors, good SA steaks, lamb, chicken - if it fits on the braai then it's fair game. As mentioned, turkeys don't fit in bog-standard grills so they need to go into the oven. Oven-cooked meat is a phenomenon that doesn't compute in my braai - holiday food is cooked on a fire or not at all.

So, taking into account the weather and culinary differences between our Christmas and theirs, I would far rather be here. Eating braai meat in the sun is the perfect way to spend any kind of holiday.

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