This post is all about recipes. Not just for food but for fun and for fellowship and for ruining a country. It's about the search for ingredients in a world of unsure availability. It's about doing what you love with those you care about. It's also about how even though no plan ever goes as planned, we still insist on making plans and will occasionally even create a plan to make a plan. We even make plans for what to do when the initial plan fails. I don't trust people that plan for their own failure. I trust people that make plans that are smart enough to endure a component failure. This year I took another trip to South Africa. I explicitly did not plan it all out. I had a good (and tried and true) plan of what I wanted to do over 5 specific days where I would be expected to have a carefully timed plan ready but the plan I made also wasn't inflexible so any part of it could be pushed aside if needed without spoiling the whole thing. Plans and trying to stick rigidly to them are bad for just about anyone that might use one. Plans must be durable against reality in the way that crunchy tacos very specifically are not. Having friends in South Africa gives one enough reason to go there. Having friends who like to hunt and shoot as much as you do and who also reside in South Africa means that it pulls on you somewhat vigorously. The pull is not just a little fond perusing of memories that distracts your attention from your day job now and then. It's more like a soul spaghetti-fying, ripping, tearing, shredding of your attention span that you might expect if sensations of nostalgia were induced by being alone, naked and really really close to a hungry lion of unknown temperament. I went back for my second trip this summer and had yet another amazing experience full of friends old and new, hunting, shooting, grilling meat over open flame and enjoying a general sense of fellowship that I don't get in the states much. South Africa is also where the night sky is at its absolute best. It's not that the ingredients for any of those kinds of good times aren't available in America but it seems that here they're mixed in the proper proportions much more rarely and when they are it often requires reservations. Whereas in Africa you just turn on the bush TV (fire), crack open a cold one of whatever you like and enjoy taking part in conversation. You get a real sense of belonging joining and sliding back out of side conversations as they flow in and out of a main direction of discussion while that main discussion ebbs and flows in volume and participation to its own more complex rhythm. It's a kind of part playing you don't see much outside the most baroque of concertos. My latest trip occupied the bulk of August which is late winter in SA. I left on a Saturday and arrived on a Monday whilst spending 23 hours in the air and enduring a 7 hour layover in Zurich. Zurich airport is insanely clean, insanely boring and full of the least helpful and least friendly staff I have encountered anywhere. That made a 7 hour layover really just less than pleasant. You should know that I cannot sleep on airplanes or in cars to save my life. To save my life. So, when I landed in Joburg t was extremely late Sunday night by my own body clock and early Monday morning by actual calendars and clocks and I had woken up very early Saturday morning and then had not a single a wink of sleep since so I was not at the top of my game on landing but people would expect me to be so I tried my best. A braai (pronounced bry) is an absolute ton of meat grilled over an open fire. Typically includes things like boerworst, mutton chops and some form of game meat. This looks like a braai but is more city-fied than any self respecting South African Boer would ever allow. There's sauce on meat... and meat on skewers. That's simply not done. They usually do a rub of spices and you eat with your hands or a fork if you absolutely must use a utensil. Skewers? Ha! A braai does not photograph well when done properly. There's no ambient light at night in rural South Africa and the moon doesn't help much. It's called the "dark continent" for a reason and it's not describing the dominant the skin color. The bush TV (fire) is the only light source you're likely to have in any abundance and it's often busy charring meat instead of illuminating anything. If you have the flash on your camera, you'll hear a lot of argh's and "knock that off" the first time you trigger it so you won't and all your night time pictures will look like this. Day 1 I arrived at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg around 10am. Joburg isn't very pretty from the air. Parts of it are quite interesting from the ground and are places you simply do not go lest you find your day get overly interesting in a way you probably do not want it to. The freeway exits that get you to interesting vs. non-interesting places do not have the courtesy to give any clues as to which option they're taking you to. So, it's really best to have a guide. My guide (a friend actually) was/is a firearms and self-defense instructor who'd previously attended one of my long range rifle classes. A nicer and more welcoming or generous soul would be hard to find. He's also a farmer and since he was spending a week with me in a different part of the country he decided to send his family to stay somewhere else other than the farm. The political situation on the ground being what it is this is a sensible move. Farm attacks are commonplace, with the attackers resorting to torture, rape, murder and all of the worst stuff humans can do to each other pretty much right out of the gate. Not even the courtesy to ramp things up or just kill people. Nope, they have to torture them too because, who knows. In any event, it's a lot more stable there than you might pick up in the media or even in my writings. It's so stable that you can find a bag of chips like those below at any gas and sip and it doesn't matter who you are when you buy them, they'll still sell them to you. Nobody riots over the chips. In the USA (P)Antifa would have the building that sold them burned down in minutes and the owners sent off to concentration camps. In South Africa the most friendly places I found were grocery stores. You just could not pull this kind of <blank> in the USA without endless cries of racism. However, they are locally made by Pepsico to be acceptable to not only the South African palette but also to the South African mental attitude so any the cries of racism there to do with chips fall on deaf ears. For what its worth, they are sweet and salty and crunchy and not all that bad. A side note about the situation on the ground: In post-apartheid South Africa there's a new racism which, if possible, is even stupider than you might think. Racism goes the normal direction with the majority population putting upon the minority population. What's not normal is that they've taken on tones and rhetoric that even the most venomous KKK rally speakers don't have the stones to approach. Certainly most people there do not seem to want their lives to improve. In fact, if you look at the behavior of the majority of people of any race in South Africa you could be excused for starting to think that they want their lives to become more difficult if you base your assessment strictly on their actions and the policies that they vote for. If you think that sounds racist, go there and take an honest look around without making excuses for people's behavior and instead simply observe it and then tell me what you think. Walk around any town for a bit, you'll see. What you might expect of the country is what Google images shows when you type in "South Africa": Google Images for "South Africa": Map, destruction, destruction, ad, destruction, map, destruction, flag, destruction, map, protest, protest, ad, map, destruction, destruction, armed rioters on the way to destruction, city scape, destruction, map, infographic. A you sensing a dominant theme here? What you actually get is something that actually resembles San Diego a great deal in weather, topography and flora, and which closely resembles Baltimore in almost every other way right down to the failed liberal policies that precipitate massive humanitarian catastrophes and economic collapses whilst never learning from past mistakes. South Africa is a display case full of all of the worst that a democratically elected representative government is capable of. It also shows that the government you have is usually a good approximation of the government that the people electing it might want, at least on a statistical level. So congratulations South Africa, you got what you wanted. How's that working out for you? You got an extremist, other-izing and overtly racist government which forces bad policies on the people while being as corrupt as any civilized nation ever has. Back to the main story... So, we met up with another friend whom I'd hunted with last year who I'll call Jack since it's easier to spell than his actual name. Anyway, he and I hanged around the airport chugging cappuccinos and scarfing down iffy burgers for a few hours while my farmer friend dealt with the hassles of getting 3 small children and a wife onto an airplane. That took 3 hours thanks to inane and recent policy changes by an individual airline. Those matters dealt with my farmer friend and I made off for a little drive to a local gun shop and then a grocery store where I expected to be able to find things like chili powder, tortillas and the like. I wanted those things because I live in California where we make the best tacos in the world, which are minted by the millions daily. I wanted therefore to make tacos for my friends in SA and maybe teach them how to make them properly. One fast food joint I never saw was a Taco Bell. I was so so so wrong about ingredient availability and while it's a very funny story, it'll take a bit to explain so we'll come to the taco story in a bit. After the grocery and gun shop tour it was several hours of driving to the farm and where we mixed bourbon, beer and cigarettes in injudicious proportions before a quick dinner of meat with a side dish of some more meat and I think some kind of potato. After the bourbon bottle got satisfyingly low we finally we made it to our respective rooms somewhere around 11pm. I woke in the morning pretty well adjusted to the sleep schedule by virtue of not having slept at all in something around 50 hours and thus having slept very soundly except for the epic nightmares that plague me whenever I travel and the headache that dropped in as soon as I came to. I was only slightly hung over. That's kind of how the next couple days went in general. Busy bees during daylight and busy boozers during the night time hours. So, day 2-4 are necessarily something of a blur except that for at least one of those days and possibly 2 we hunted pretty hard. It was also partly a blur because I was still unsure of what day it actually was and partly because I didn't care what day it was and fully planned not to for at least 17 more days. My heart just wasn't in "tracking time mode". Upon setting out on the hunt it was expected that my friend the farmer would be able to find the desired zebra herd quickly and we'd take one of those within an hour and then spend all day tromping around looking for an eland and then finish out the day if there was any of it left with an easy to find warthog. HA! Surely no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy and this was no exception. In short: zebra were almost impossible to find, eland were standing right there waiting for us and despite warthog presenting themselves at 100m distance all day long while we were walking, we passed on every opportunity up until the last minute because, well we're prone to that sort of decision making. We had walked literally less than 5 minutes out of the main house and come around a corner where there's a very large eland standing there looking delicious not even 50 yards from me. My farmer friend was looking another way and I was the first to see the eland. I said, "Eland!" and hurriedly pointed. As my friend turned to see it I quietly deployed the bipod on the .375 Ruger chambered rifle and got very quietly prone, dialed back to minimum magnification and as quietly as I could jacked a round in. The eland didn't seem to mind any of those things to any great degree but was clearly starting to remember about its shopping list. Just as it moved one front hoof a few inches off the ground I put a 250 grain monometal bullet made in SA into its left shoulder. That shattered the shoulder and blew a large hole in the lungs and some vitally important large blood vessels. The bullet went through to the other side and broke the off-side shoulder before halting in some shoulder meat below the skin. The eland took two collapsing steps into the bush and fell on its face. It didn't seem very conscious as we approached. It was definitely going to be all the way dead any minute but we; being merciful humans, elected to put a .308 in the head to bring about a quick end to any suffering that might ensue and to avoid getting kicked. That eland was meat for a neighbor and so went meat, horns and hide to them directly but, I got a picture first. I'm used to boy critters having horns/antlers and the girls not having them. Eland don't play that game. This is a female eland. The horns of the female tend to be longer and more slender compared to a bull's horns. Still it was a beast weighing something around 1000lbs on the hoof. It took 6 men to get it onto the tractor's platform. A happy hunter with his quarry. Look at that suppressor. It's like an axle over an otherwise thin barrel. Recoil was nothing and it's surprisingly quiet even with full power loads. Continued below.