Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand's Culinary History

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand's Culinary History

Article excerpt

Leach, H. (2009) The Pavlova Story: a slice of New Zealand's culinary history. Dunedin: Otago University Press.

Reviewed by Lindsay Neill and Nigel Hemmington

Helen Leach (New Zealand) has warned "...prepare yourself!" and Margaret Fulton (Australia) agrees; the 'pavlova wars' break out every ten years. With this in mind we should prepare for battle because we are due for a fresh outbreak, especially if antagonists choose not to read Helen Leach's excellent work The Pavlova Story: a slice of New Zealand's culinary history,' Otago University Press.

From the start, Leach impresses with her stance toward her topic. Tempted by media to provoke the debate of pavlova ownership, Leach wisely declines the invitation of local television to bake and pretend (no doubt enhanced by the technology of the day) to throw a pavlova at Margaret Fulton. Thus, what may be considered a light and airy topic, 'pavlova,' is grounded by the gravitas of Leach's attitude towards it. This difference elevates the pavlova debate above the media frenzy that has constantly pervaded it, as well as the ongoing Australia/New Zealand rivalry within sport, celebrity, and anything else that media can seize to provoke two nations with more in common than not. Our commonality includes the pavlova, and, as Leach reminds us, pavlova ownership, like its cooking, is really a matter of methodology and timing - "there are many pavlova stories ... each contributing to the complex history of pavlovas".

Leach, leaves no stone unturned. Her book is exhaustively researched, combining the commercial history of the Davis Gelatine based pavlova (more of a jelly), alongside the home-made notes of Dunedin North's Rose Rutherford's 'Little Pavlovas' (1927), that feature the more well-known meringue style pavlova base. Herein lies Leach's bombshell, Rutherford's recipe pre-dates Australian Burt Sachse's (often cited as the pavlova originator) recipe by seven years, thus establishing the pavlova within New Zealand's ownership - oops, here we go again !

Leach extends her topic well beyond pavlova ownership. There is something in this book for everyone; the academic, the researcher, and the general reader. …

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