The campfire and the braai are synonymous with overland travel. But creating meals to everyone’s taste on an open fire can be tricky, especially when you are responsible for feeding a dozen people or more, says Eben Delport.
It is almost impossible to conjure up images of overland travel without including a group of people sitting around a campfire. And, of course, some meat roasting over the coals.
For a tour guide, making a fire when you reach your destination is part of the job. A fire creates a cosy, tranquil atmosphere, and makes everyone feel at home.
Starting a fire is easy enough, but preparing meals can be tricky. In fact, feeding a travelling group can be as difficult and stressful as escorting a convoy over a series of high sand dunes.
Some guides leave food preparation to the individual group members but others, like me, provide all meals as part of the deal.
If you are catering for a large group, there is almost certain to be someone with special dietary requirements. People may be allergic to certain foods, or they may simply not like some dishes.
And then there is the occasional vegetarian. “Vegetarian” is a general term used to describe people who don’t eat meat, poultry, fish, or other animal-derived foods. Their diet is plant-based and contains mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Most vegetarians choose the lifestyle for either health, political (animal rights) and/or spiritual reasons.
The group could include Lacto-vegetarians or Lacto-ovo-vegetarians — those who will eat milk or milk products (and eggs) but exclude meat, poultry, fish and seafood from their diets. Semi-vegetarians include some but not all types of animal-derived foods in their diets. They usually exclude red meat, but may occasionally eat poultry (pollo-vegetarian), fish and seafood (pesco-vegetarian).
Vegans are people who choose not to eat animal products of any kind, including dairy products, eggs and sometimes even honey. Raw food vegetarians and “fruitarians” eat vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains and sprouted beans or legumes in their raw or dehydrated state.
As a tour guide, you might have to cater for vegetarians – or even vegans – and this obviously requires some careful planning.
And then there are people who follow specific diets because of their faith. It is an important and positive aspect of their personal commitment to living out their faith. Sensitivity and care should therefore be exercised when catering for people who follow a dietary practice for reasons of their spiritual belief, whether religious or non-religious.
When you cater for people of diverse faiths, a great number of considerations should be kept in mind, such fast days and the use of biologically fermented (chametz) foodstuffs. Some people might maintain a vegetarian diet during certain times of the year, even though they eat meat at other times.
Even if your group consists entirely of omnivores, some types of food could be, well, a bit controversial. Tripe, for example, is not appreciated by all.
Luckily, most South Africans aren’t particularly fussy about their diets and are happy to have a braai. For the caterer, though, the secret is to offer a decent range of options. That’s why I seldom serve only red meat. I’ll usually include fish or chicken, and even throw some large potatoes or a butternut onto the grill.
If you’re in charge of the menu on a trip, I encourage you to take the job very seriously. The food can make or break a trip.