I come not to raise the pavlova
issue again but to bury it. This, I believe, should be the final word on the origins of the pav
and comes from the following highly authoritative AUSTRALIAN reference:
M.Symons, "One continuous picnic: a history of eating in Australia",
Duck Press, Adelaide, 1982. There's a long section on the Pav, its recipe
and its origins but I'll excerpt the most important bits:
"A symphony of silence! So Pavlova has been described," began
the report in the West Australian on Tuesday, July 9, 1929. "But
who, seeing the famous ballerina for the first time as she stood on
the deck... at Fremantle yesterday, could apply the description? It
was Babel itself!" The reporter managed to share her cab into Perth...
"They are funny, these Australians," she pronounced in the
cab... The next night she gave the first of 11 evening... performances...
"Exquisite Pavlova!..." began the West Australian. It was
her only Perth season, on her second Australian tour. She died two years
later. Yet her memory survived at her hotel, the Esplanade, because
there six years later the chef whipped up the meringue and cream cake
which perpetuates her name....
"In 1934, Mrs Elizabeth Paxton succeeded her husband as licensee
of the Esplanade and under her invigorated guidance the afternoon teas
became very desirable occasions.... One day she called in her manager...
and they approached their chef [Bert Sachse] to devise something special...
Bert Sachse experimented for a month.... According to Paxton family
tradition, the pavlova was named at a meeting at which Sachse presented
the now familiar cake. The family say that either the licensee...or
the manager...(as Sachse also said) remarked, "It is as light as Pavlova".
The author then explains how he proceeded to research the NZ claim.]
"To help check for me, librarians of the National Library of New
Zealand kindly consulted their collection of cookery books. In fact,
they found a recipe for "Pavlova cakes" ... published in 1929.
The ingredients were roughly those of a pavlova, but it was not the
pavlova as we know it, because the mixture was baked into three dozen
little meringues. It seems a coincidence that the NZ cook was impressed
by the ballerina's lightness and whiteness.
"But there is more to the NZ claim than this. Even earlier, in
"Terrace Tested Recipes", collected by the ladies of Terrace
Congregational Church, the second edition published in Wellington in
1927, there was a recipe submitted by a Mrs. McRae for Meringue Cake.
[He then describes the recipe]. From similar recipes published in 1933
and 1934, I think it is fair to say that the Meringue Cake was common
in NZ in the early 1930s. Its form varied, but it was to all intents
and purposes what we know as a "Pavlova", sometimes even complete
with passionfruit on top.
"Bert Sachse said in a magazine interview in 1973 that he sought
to improve the Meringue Cake. There was a prize-winning recipe for Meringue
Cake in the "Women's Mirror" on April 2, 1935. It contained
vinegar, but no cornflour and was of two parts filled with whipped cream.
The recipe was contributed by "Rewa", who happened to be of
Rongotai, NZ. If Sachse read the "Women's Mirror" and other
magazines for ideas, as his widow told me, he might have seen this recipe.
We can concede that New Zealanders discovered the secret delights of
the large meringue with the "marshmallow centre", the heart
of the pavlova. But it seems reasonable to assume that someone in Perth
attached the name of the ballerina...
"In the "Good Food Guide" to British Isles restaurants
in 1977, a glossary of food terms referred to the pavlova as a NZ offering,
which changed the next year to Australian. Hilary Fawcett, who compiled
the glossary, wrote to me about the change: "There does seem to
be some controversy as to whether the wretched thing originated in NZ
or Australia and I was reduced to doing a straw-vote count."
"It is possible, if ungenerous, to deride the pavlova for culinary
innocence. It was adopted from New Zealand. Yet Herbert Sachse made
a genuine, crystallising contribution. The pavlova served its original
purpose admirably. It then caught the popular imagination. Distilling
the Australian concept of sweet living, it is the single great discovery
thus far of our cooking."