Ever had a 'Pavlova' on your birthday?
A little bit of Russian woven into a New Zealand farm dinner
I’ve never wanted to go to New Zealand, had any interest in sheep farming, or wished I’d seen the Russian ballerina Pavlova dance until Friday, January 9th, when I went to a birthday tea. I was a guest to help celebrate the birthday of a long-time, former neighbor when we lived in the city. It was given by a younger woman whom we had met since moving to Havenwood, a retirement facility in Concord. We are all now easy friends.
Baked and photographed by Bill Warren.
With cups of Earl Grey English tea with its smoky taste there were four mini-poppy seed muffins each holding a small lighted birthday candle, that our birthday gal easily puffed out. Then tiny, thinly sliced square sandwiches of cream cheese with ginger and others of shrimp paste were consumed. Our hostess removed our plates and placed in front of us her stunning finale. It’s a “Pavlova”, Heather explained.
On a round fragile glass plate for a frame - the little that showed, was at least a 6-inch high and 4-inch square meringue browned on top. The cut sides showed the beaten egg whites as light and white as the spume when the west wind beats back the breaking crest of a wave, or, in this case, like the white froth of the tutu worn by the Russian ballerina Pavlova and its incredible height as if lifted on pointed toes.
A few pale sea-green slices of kiwi fruit were scattered on the top with their black seeds like those from the thistle blossom we put in the bird feeder. A dollop of silky smooth whipped cream was placed on the top just off center holding half a slice of a crimson strawberry.
She reminded us that in April she had gone to New Zealand and had visited the North and South Islands — one almost tropical and the other with its Antartica features, snow-capped mountains and very cool weather. It was fall there.
Heather is a spinner, mostly of wool. She keeps her wheel in her studio apartment and finds it a relaxing hobby. She has immersed herself in the story of wool — the breeds of sheep — the varieties of wool, where they are raised — all its history. There are sheep tours to wherever sheep are raised and wool fairs both, all over the world. She’s been to Scotland, Wales and England and seen all N.H. offers. She demonstrates spinning in Canterbury at the Shaker Village and at the Crafts of N.H. August Fair.
The tour group of fifteen in New Zealand saw the sheep farms with their hundreds of thousands of sheep and lush green pastures, saw sheep being moved along narrow paths with the sheep dogs keeping them together. They stayed at some of these farms, and it was on the last night of their trip at their dinner the hostess presented the “Pavlova” for dessert. Heather said it was greeted by astonished silence. Then each person tentatively took a forkful and tasted it. Then all of them put down their forks and applauded their hostess. At this point the two of us tasted ours and grinning at each other put down our forks and applauded Heather.
Rethinking the afternoon, I wished I could go to New Zealand, that I could see hundreds of sheep grazing and, when I was young, had seen Pavlova dance (she died in 1931).
Copyright © Rye Reflections 2007. All rights reserved.