WHY WOULD ANYONE EAT A HEDGEHOG?
In the early 1990s, Weber was working hard to build its brand in the South African marketplace. South Africa is a beautiful country with a long and rich history of outdoor cooking.
South Africans love barbecue meals, but they don’t invite you to a barbecue. Instead, they invite you to a braai. And while Americans refer to Weber’s classic charcoal grill as a kettle barbecue, South Africans call it a kettle braai.
When we arrived in South Africa, we discovered that people typically barbecued only steaks, chops, burgers, and sausages (wors). Charcoal briquettes were hard to find, and a hardwood fire on an open grill was the most common way of barbecuing.
We didn’t have to introduce South Africans to the fun and flavor of a barbecue party, but we had to be careful not to insult outdoor cooking enthusiasts by telling them that they could improve on their barbecues by using an American-made covered kettle grill.
We decided to conduct barbecue demonstrations at retail stores throughout the country, showing people how to cook beef roasts, whole chickens, and fish. We also demonstrated how to bake pizzas and bread. Those demonstrations were a hit, drawing big crowds of interested grillers.
On a beautiful day in December—that’s summertime in the Southern Hemisphere—I was demonstrating how to roast whole chickens. I was enjoying the interaction with folks living in Cape Town who loved to barbecue, and they were amazed to see how a whole chicken could be roasted without burning it to a crisp.
A gentleman watched me for a while and then asked if a leg of lamb could be cooked the same way. I replied yes and told him how I usually prepared it. He then asked, “Well, what about a leg of warthog? Could you do it the same way?”
Because of my limited zoological knowledge, I immediately thought hedgehog, not warthog. I tried to imagine why anyone would want to eat a hedgehog, especially because there couldn’t be much meat on a hedgehog’s leg.
Much to my embarrassment, he got a great laugh out of a Yank who had never seen a warthog. As he walked away, still chuckling, I wasn’t sure if I had just been hoodwinked or if there really were animals called warthogs running around South Africa.
This was a long time before we had the Internet everywhere for quick reference, so I called Shirley Guy, a great chef and grilling enthusiast whom I had met when I was in Johannesburg. She assured me that there were indeed warthogs on this planet and they resembled wild boars.
Our business grew in South Africa, and we teamed up with Shirley to produce our first South African cookbook. We included a recipe for roasted leg of warthog to make sure we satisfied the needs of wild-game hunters.
Whenever I mention that recipe in the United States, I get the same "is he pulling my leg?" look. I recognize that look because it was on my face many years ago on that Cape Town day.
*article contributed by MIKE KEMPSTER