James Michener Didn’t Have One, Either

The year is 1986. The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 30 seconds after lift off. Chernobyl’s nuclear reactor blows up in the U.S.S.R creating the world’s worst nuclear accident. Civil strife is taking place across the globe. And I just finished reading “The Shocking Slaughter of Africa’s Wildlife” in the UNESCO Courier (A publication of The United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization). Destruction of the animals’ natural habitats is described in tragic detail. “The problem is balancing human needs with animal needs.” The animals are losing.

We’ll take the girls before it’s gone, I decided. A few weeks later the five of us were on the plane to South Africa. (The five: my husband, our daughter on summer break from college, our daughter on summer break from high school, my sister, and I.) South Africa was chosen because the animal habitats were still largely protected by the large game reserves and Kruger National Park. Once we arrived in Johannesburg, I was anxious to depart the plane. This was my second trip to a continent that I loved. As soon as I inhaled my first breath off the plane, I knew I was in this special place called Africa. Nowhere on Earth smells the same. When I breathed in the aroma of human, animal, and life itself, it reaffirmed my belief that this is where it all began.

We rented a van to drive to the Mala Mala Kirkmans Kamp Reserve in the Eastern Transvaal of South Africa. Mala Mala shares a common border of 26 miles with Kruger National Park making the reserve the ideal place to view rhino, lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe, cheetah, and buffalo. Awakening the next morning in our bungalows complete with thatch roofs, we began our photographic safari conducted in an open-4 wheel drive Land Rover. From a temporary standoff with a herd of elephants to a dusk observation of a pride of lions, our safari was beyond expectations. Even the meals taken in the open top, side reed enclosed boma were suburb, especially the malva pudding which James Michener mentioned so often in “The Covenant.” Before we leave, I reminded myself, ask for the recipe.

As it happened, it wasn’t until we arrived home that I realized I had forgotten to ask. I wrote to our guide to please send the recipe. Several weeks passed with no answer. “The Covenant” came to mind. Surely, James Michener wouldn’t leave South Africa without the recipe so I wrote him.

“I regret that I do not have the recipe for malva pudding,” he answered. “I do hope you find it.”

It’s always the darkest just before the dawn. The next day a letter arrived from our guide. The year 1986 looked a little brighter. I shared the recipe with James Michener.

Kirkmans Kamp Malva Pudding

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon jam (choose your favorite)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the egg and sugar together. Beat in jam. Add melted butter, lemon juice, and milk. Beat. Shift dry ingredients together. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Beat 2 minutes. Pour into baking dish. Cover and bake 1 hour. Remove from oven and pour syrup below over pudding as soon as the pudding is removed from oven.

1 cup cream
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
½ cup water

Mix in saucepan. Bring to boil. Boil 3 minutes.