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New Zealand pavlova

A sort of deconstructed pavlova at the Wedderburn Tavern. Photo by David Lansing.

I’m not a dessert guy but I know Justin and Casey (who I call the Juseys) love their sweets so after our dinner at the Wedderburn Tavern, I suggested we get a couple of pavlovas for the table.

Surprisingly, the Juseys had never heard of pavlova. “It’s a meringue cake with berries,” I said. “Sort of the Australian equivalent of British trifle.”

Well, this really set Adriena off. “First of all, pavlova comes from New Zealand, not Australia,” she said with a huff. “And it’s nothing like trifle.”

Okay, here we go: the big who-made-pavlova-first debate. It’s like trying to determine whether pisco was first made in Chile or Peru.

Ten years ago, of course, we would have gone round and around arguing about pavlova’s provenance but now all you have to do is pull out your smart phone and do a little cursory research.

So here’s what I found: According to Wikipedia (certainly not the definitive source but acceptable in a tavern argument), pavlova “is believed to have been created in honour of the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but formal research indicated New Zealand as the source.”

Point to Adriena (although if I was being peckish I could have pointed out that the Wikipedia entry was probably written by a Kiwi).

Another article claims that pavlova was created by Bert Sachse, a chef at the Esplanade Hotel in Perth, Australia. And a restaurant critic for a Sydney newspaper writes that it is unlikely that a definitive answer about pavlova’s origins would ever be found. “People have been doing meringue with cream for a long time, I don’t think Australia or New Zealand were the first to think of doing that.”

Good point. And since the Brits have been making trifle since at least 1596, I say we need to give them proper credit. What do you think?

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