IN the old days, when South Africa was a different country, the Western Cape had a so-called boerewors curtain, right by the N1. Behind it, Afrikaners could feel safe, free and superior, enjoying themselves among their own.
Beyond that border, they talked about the other curtain, the Iron Curtain on the other side of the world; the one the National Party used to stoke fears of the rooi gevaar. Hand in hand with that danger walked the swart gevaar.
Back then, in a popular car advertisement, they sang about braais, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolets. Yes, behind that boerewors curtain on a Saturday afternoon, cars were often washed and gleaming, and the smell of braais and boerewors filled the air. Life was good.
Rugby was also broadcast enthusiastically on Saturday afternoons — before the days of television, of course — in proper Standard Afrikaans, never in the Afrikaans spoken on the Cape Flats. Seasoned commentators such as Gerhard Viviers almost perfected those days.
Yes, those were the days, and just like the ANC's laughable “better life for all", they were intended for a small group of people. Although the chosen ones' colour has changed and the new rulers have brought about many changes, boerewors and braais remain.
Let's take a look at boerewors.
Not only did it survive 1994, it has also broken free of the myth that only Afrikaners are crazy about it and know how to make it. Boerewors has, so to speak, burst through borders like the boerewors curtain built by apartheid.
Group identity shaken off
This spring month, known as Heritage Month, it is fitting that South Africa's champion boerewors maker of 2023 unequivocally demonstrates that boerewors has completely shed its narrow group identity. Not only is he not an Afrikaner, he is also brown/coloured and a trained chef who has cooked at leading establishments in the Boland, including Grand Dedale in Wellington and Vendôme in Paarl.
His name is Tyron Adams, a young father of two and a native of Wellington, the same town where ox-wagons were made centuries ago. The front door of his childhood home looks directly onto the old NG Missionary Church's Jubilee Hall. It's quite bizarre because the paternalistic apartheid name Missionary Church has long disappeared. The so-called daughter church of the NG Church has grown up, become independent, and is now an equal. Yes, the church curtain has also disappeared, even though the nameplates that remind us of the old days haven't all gone yet.
Like thousands of other South Africans, Tyron was a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic that struck the country with force in 2020. At the time, he worked as a sous-chef at The Valley Restaurant on the wealthy and access-controlled Pearl Valley. On its best nights, the restaurant served up to 160 guests. However, the Covid regulations dealt a fatal blow and employees realised they would be retrenched sooner or later.
“I didn't expect to be retrenched. It hurt. Just before the retrenchments, I had to cope with a much smaller salary. My wife was pregnant with our first child. Her due date was approaching. It wasn't an easy time," says Tyron.
In moments of crisis, he discovered, many families come together. He and his wife, Luzahn, whom he married in 2019, lived in an apartment and could no longer afford the monthly rent. “My dad (Terence) supported me a lot," he says. “I couldn't go on like that. My family was my main concern."
More than chicken burgers
That's why he started making chicken burgers and selling them from his parents' home. His cousin Lindley came to help him. The two are still together today. They have since expanded the chicken burger business and it is now a popular catering company in the Wellington area, Kumin & Khords. “Kumin" refers to his favorite spice, cumin, and “Khords" to the musical term “chords".
Tyron says he didn't have much capital and started with R2,000. There were also no cooking utensils and he had to use family members' freezers and refrigerators. To obtain equipment, Tyron began entering cooking competitions because he could compete for prizes such as a mixer and a food processor. Such competitions also had the benefit of spreading the name of Kumin & Khords.
Two years ago, in McCain's Dishruption Challenge, they were the only entrant that wasn't a restaurant. Ten winners were selected, including Kumin & Khords, and they won R25,000, a marketing package worth R20,000 and McCain products worth R5,000. They had to store the McCain products in his aunt's freezer and retrieve them when needed.
“That competition was the first one that put us on the map," says Tyron The second was one of Via's television cooking contests, Kookpunt.
Then came the big 2023 boerewors competition. This was after he had messed up the previous year by failing to follow the rules. Tyron laughs heartily and says the judges probably immediately knew “this guy doesn't know the rules". This year, however, he was thoroughly prepared.
He's a chef, so what's he doing with something like boerewors, I want to know. Amused, Tyron emphasises that real boerewors is not just any sausage. There are many secrets involved. Also, “boerewors is a highly regulated product. There are strict rules and regulations that must be followed if you want to call it boerewors."
The regulations say boerewors may not contain more than 10% fat, no garlic is allowed, and only certain spices and lamb, beef and pork may be used. His winning entry included beef and pork. “I decided against lamb because you want to keep it simple."
And, of course, the spices and herbs and the delicate balance between them are of utmost importance. Tyron is cautious not to give away his secrets but does mention that he roasted his coriander seeds before grinding them. He picked fresh thyme in a friendly lady's garden and sundried it.
When he submitted his wors, Tyron was cautiously optimistic that he would do well. He made it to the top 30. Next, the top 10 entries were to be announced, and when he didn't receive an email on the particular day, Tyron assumed he had been eliminated. But then, lo and behold, his entry was indeed among the top 10. “I was very happy. I was quite nervous about the big announcement. I could only hope that my recipe and the sausage were good enough."
The champion boerewors maker was announced on a Saturday evening at a lavish reception at Lourensford wine estate in Somerset West. The day before, Tyron says he realised how big the competition was: there were more than 1,400 entries from all over the country, including a few previous winners, such as the Blaauw family from Wellington and Uncle Olivier Kritzinger from Joubertina, who had won twice before.
It’s not over until…
Unnerved by the presence of so many seasoned participants, the day before the big announcement he told his wife despondently that he didn't think he would win. But the next day, he had a little more courage, and his words to her were, “it's not over until the announcement is made".
Third and second places were announced at the reception, then Mango Groove performed. Now came the big moment: the winner! And the young chef from Wellington heard his name.
“I couldn't believe it when they made the announcement. It's difficult to explain everything. I cried. It was very emotional. You go through tough times, and things aren't always okay, and during those difficult times I wondered if I had done the right thing by starting my own business."
One of his prizes is a Toyota Fortuner, his first car. Now they can stop using his wife's old Opel. With the larger vehicle, they also won't have to worry about how to transport all their necessities to events.
Everything has now changed for Tyron and his team. They can hit the road with more confidence and continue to build their business. His 2023 champion boerewors is available in the sponsors' stores nationwide, and for a year he will hold the title of South Africa's top boerewors maker.
On Heritage Day, many braais in different communities will bear witness to a heritage that has truly become South African. As Tyron says: “Boerewors no longer belongs to just one group; it's now part of the greater South Africa."
So come on, let's have a braai!
♦ VWB ♦
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