Hands off our Kiwi Pav, mate!
17 Apr 2009
An ongoing tug-of-war over the true origin of pavlova has been given a diplomatic twist by New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key who’s warned Aussies to keep their hands off iconic Kiwi items.
Mr Key has expressed his irritation at Australia's longstanding claim to have invented the famous meringue dessert, dismissing it as "ridiculous".
And he not only urged his neighbour and ally to acknowledge pavlova’s New Zealand's origins but also to renounce other treasured New Zealand exports, such as the legendary racehorse Phar Lap, to which Australia also lays claim.
Good natured rivalry between Australia and New Zealand over the pavlova has existed for more than half a century, but new evidence suggests that Mr Key may have grounds for his claim.
A New Zealand recipe from 1929 predates the earliest Australian recipe for pavlova by six years.
Australians have long believed the first pav was created in 1935 by chef Bert Sachse of Perth's Esplanade Hotel. The dessert honoured the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who visited Australia in 1926, and again in 1929.
New academic evidence
However, Helen Leach, an academic at New Zealand's Otago University, has found a pavlova recipe in a 1933 Mothers' Union Cookbook, and another in a 1929 rural magazine.
Both call the dessert a pavlova, stipulate the same ingredients used by modern cooks and recommend the same cooking method.
Historians point out that Anna Pavlova also ventured across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand on both her visits downunder.
NZ’s iconic items
While Australians consider the dessert one of their national dishes, Prime Minister Key said it was "totally ridiculous for Australians to claim that they have pavlova, or Phar Lap, or any of those iconic New Zealand items. Everyone knows that they're ours and for Australia to claim ownership of them is quite inappropriate."
Phar Lap, a thoroughbred gelding, was born in New Zealand in 1926 but raced in Australia, winning two consecutive Melbourne Cups.
The horse died in mysterious circumstances in the US in 1932, and his body parts are scattered in museums on both sides of the Tasman Sea.
Since Phar Lap's departure, New Zealand has continued to breed outstanding racehorses including many Melbourne Cup winners - an annual source of sporting rivalry between the two nations.
Australians also claim the temperamental Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, who was born in New Zealand but grew up in both Australia and New Zealand, and now lives permanently across the ditch.
Mr Key joked that "on a bad day, we'll lend you Russell Crowe".
While many New Zealanders resent Australia's habit of appropriating anything or anyone famous to emerge from their country, trans-Tasman rivalries are generally light-hearted.
Mr Key - who ousted Helen Clark last year’s general election - admitted that despite their niggles, Australia was New Zealand's most trusted ally.
"We've fought together in many theatres of war, you're our largest destination for inbound tourism, you're our largest investment partner, and on it goes,'' Key told Australian media.
Asked if he shared the famously controversial view of former New Zealand prime minister Rob Muldoon that "New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries'', Mr Key was more coy.
"It would be most impolite of me to confirm or deny that proposition,'' he laughed.
And is New Zealand ready to forgive Australia for that unsportsmanlike underarm bowl of 1981 that stopped New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie from hitting a six to tie the match?
"We've certainly stopped the counselling sessions,'' the Prime Minister confirmed.
Background: Kiwi pavlova
Pavlova is a meringue dessert, crisp on the outside but light and fluffy inside, and traditionally topped with whipped cream and tropical fruit. especially kiwifruit.
The dessert is believed to have been created to honour the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, during or after one of her tours to Australasia in the 1920s.
Pavlova is made by beating egg whites (at room temperature) until they are stiff and fluffy, then beating in sugar and a small amount of white vinegar and vanilla.
The dessert is a popular dish in New Zealand and is frequently eaten during celebratory or holiday meals such as Christmas dinner. Commercially made pavlovas are available in supermarkets.
The world’s largest pavlova was created in February 1999 to celebrate the first birthday of Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum in Wellington. The dessert was named ‘Pavzilla’ and cut by the then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley.
British author, television commentator and politician
Austin Mitchell famously dubbed New Zealand as "the half-gallon quarter-acre pavlova paradise" in his best selling commentary on life in New Zealand published in 1972.
New Zealand's culinary culture
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