Thursday, May 16, 2013


I love the award winning Michael Stanley Kubu series set in Botswana.. well, I love both Stan Trollip and Michael Sears, partners in crime who craft this series together as Michael Stanley.  They've both been at my home in Berkeley for Literary Salons, and I've joined up with them at various mystery conventions. Stan splits his time between Minnesota and Knysna, South Africa, and Michael lives in Johannasburg, South Africa, and they've both spent plenty of time in the country of Botswana.

Retired South African professors, they have worked in academia and business. Sears is a mathematician, specializing in geological remote sensing. Trollip is an educator, interested in how computers can improve teaching and learning, and a pilot. They have been on numerous flying safaris to Botswana and Zimbabwe, where it was always exciting to buzz dirt airstrips to shoo the elephants off. Their many adventures include tracking lions, fighting bush fires, being charged by an elephant, and losing their navigation maps over the Kalahari when their aircraft door popped open. These trips have fed their love both for the bush, as well as for Botswana.


Michael Stanley: A Taste of Africa

Our protagonist, Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu, is a large man by any standards, and he loves to eat. It is not by accident that his nickname “Kubu” means hippopotamus in the local language of Botswana. He may appear large, slow, and placid, but like his namesake is dangerous when roused.

About six months ago, we received an email from Vincent Moureau, a Kubu fan in Brussels, Belgium. Not only did he suggest that we put together a small cookbook of Kubu’s favorite foods, but he also proposed the very catchy title of KUkBUk. What a great pun! We were intrigued.

The cuisine of southern Africa has had a variety of influences. The staple diet of the black population revolves around corn meal, which is made into a dry porridge called pap. Dry pap is held in the fingers and used to eat a meat stew or a tomato-onion sauce. It is now part of a braaivleis (barbeque).

The Dutch brought slaves from Malaya and other eastern countries to the Cape in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries. Their delicate curries are now part of the national cuisine.

The British brought typical English cooking to South Africa – roasts, steak and kidney pies, fish on Fridays, and over-cooked vegetables. Fortunately (from a culinary perspective), they also brought tens of thousands of laborers from India to work on the sugar cane plantations on South Africa’s east coast. So delicious hot curries are also on most menus.

Although food plays a big role in Kubu’s life, there are only two cooking scenes in our first four books. In THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU (A DEADLY TRADE outside North America), the eccentric camp cook, Moremi, makes a very traditional South African dish of Malay heritage called bobotie, while being watched by his tame go-away bird. At the end of DEATH OF THE MANTIS, Kubu has to make good on a pledge he gave to his wife, Joy, to help a little more on the domestic scene. So he cooks his first meal ever – a completely non-traditional meal of sweet and sour pork. Despite several near disasters, he manages to produce the meal – at least a reasonable facsimile of it – a mere two hours late. Fortunately Joy is touched by Kubu’s efforts, and the meal is deemed a success.

So what does Kubu like to eat? Kubu is very cosmopolitan in his food choices (although he dislikes tripe, which is a traditional Botswana dish), and he’s willing to try any type of cuisine once. He would claim that the quality of the food is of prime importance to him. Joy would probably interject that quality is important only if there is sufficient quantity.

So you get the picture. Meals need to be big! Kubu’s preference is to have a multi-course meal, with starters, main course, and dessert, liberally lubricated with the best wine he can afford which, on an Assistant Superintendent’s salary, is usually ordinary table wine.

A favorite appetizer is chicken livers peri-peri. It is a rich, usually generous dish of cooked chicken livers marinated in a peri-peri sauce. As far as we know, peri-peri originated in Mozambique and is a spicy concoction of lime juice, vinegar, garlic, paprika, and dried chilies. It can be quite hot, which Kubu likes. The chicken livers are spread on buttered brown bread. When all the livers are gone, the remaining sauce is perfect for mopping up. Ideally Kubu would like a dry Riesling as an accompaniment.

For the main course, Kubu enjoys above all a huge steak, preferably a rump steak cooked medium rare, smothered in monkey-gland sauce (Don’t gag! It’s not from monkeys!) and surrounded by French fries.

Apparently monkey gland sauce got its name at the Savoy Hotel in London and was named in honor of a Russian-born French scientist, Dr. Abrahamovitch Serge Voronoff. Voronoff became famous for his treatment to reverse the ageing process in humans – by grafting monkey testicle tissue onto human testicles. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a professor in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories inject himself with monkey-gland extract.

One of the staff at the Savoy Hotel introduced the sauce at the Old Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg. It became a hit and has remained popular in South Africa ever since.

If available, Kubu would choose a heavy South African Cabernet Sauvignon to quaff with the steak.

To round out the meal, Kubu would probably choose something simple like vanilla ice cream (3 scoops) smothered with hot chocolate, but a malva pudding or a melktert (milk tart) would also be acceptable. These last two are traditional farm desserts in South Africa.

Finally he’d enjoy a cup of coffee with hot milk, followed – for the purely medicinal purpose of settling the stomach, of course – by a decent South African brandy.

We have received several emails from readers, worried that if we let Detective Kubu continue to eat the way he has been, he is likely to suffer a heart attack. Joy is also concerned about Kubu’s weight and has made him promise to have a salad for lunch. Kubu, of course, dutifully complies but, since Joy didn’t say only a salad, he augments the meager contents of the lunch box she gives him with something more substantial – such as a steak.

The KUkBUk idea was such a good one that we have put together an e-book with recipes for many of Kubu’s favorite African dishes, including monkey gland sauce and his preferred non-alcoholic drink, the steelworks, made from kola tonic, lime juice, ginger beer, and Angostura bitters. 

We also commissioned the very talented Danish artist, Tao Wedfall Lydiksen, to create four cartoons of Kubu enjoying his food and wine. We’d be delighted if you try out a few of the recipes. Let us know if you like them at

Bob appetit and cheers!

To order A Taste of Africa by Michael Stanley, go Here.

1 comment:

Marcia Talley said...

I just downloaded the cookbook and can't wait to try them, monkey glands included.