In the spring of 2016, Henderson Productions took an extended do-it-yourself driving tour of New Zealand.   We’re excerpting portions of our trip in this blog including this introduction to pavlova beginning with    

Spent a touristy hangi/traditional Maori dinner with a couple from Melbourne (pronounced Melbun) and shared notes about what to see and do.    It’s only a 4-hour flight for them (closer than Perth) so they’ve been a couple of times to the South Island.   This trip is all about the Rotorua area and they’re off to Hobbiton in the morning while we go zorbing. 

The dinner was a HUGE buffet with pumpkin/kumara (white sweet potato – the national veg) soup, a big seafood bar with mixed seafood salad, a smoked trout, a big pile of four-inch mussels, coleslaw, potato salad and green salad.   Another table with roast pork, chicken, venison stew (w rice), roasted kumara and pumpkin, more veggies and a carving station with ham.    A large dessert table with steamed pudding and white sauce, kumara cake with creme fraiche, a big fruit compote, some sort of chocolate something-or-other and 2 big pavlovas.    I’d heard about pavlova.  Essentially, it’s a piled high meringue with a drizzle of fruit or choc sauce and fruit pieces.  

Pavlova with Strawberries (stock photo)

I asked Catherine about this obsession.   She was instantly defensive and animated telling me first that she’s a good Aussie wife and knows how to make a proper pav.     According to her it doesn’t matter who but there’s a bit of a competition between NZ and Oz over who first served the dish to Anna Pavlova when she was on tour in the 19th c but it doesn’t matter where it originated as much as the height and quality.   She deemed the ones on the table as not good examples.    

In essence one takes six egg whites and “beat the crap out of them for a while until they form a stiff figure eight”    Only then do you add, in small portions – not all at once – a quarter or half cup of fine sugar and whip it back up again until it stands straight up.     She didn’t indicate the type of pan to put it in, but it must be a double height cake pan as there’s no hole in the middle like a bundt and its regular double layer cake in height and diameter.   Regardless “a proper pav must be lightly brown with a thin hard layer and a soft airy center.    Once it’s out of the pan you can decorate or add bits of fruit on top per taste.”    

Gotta say, I’ve never been a fan of meringue and this didn’t sway my opinion.   What’s the point?    Its whipped egg whites.    It IS very light, so it’s got that going for it.  

Rick accepting the welcome to the hangi on behalf of the tourists, aka visiting tribes.

We enjoyed a great conversation before the evening events began with our Maori hostess including an animated discussion of the multiple similarities between the native peoples in all three places – NZ, OZ, US.   Rick was asked to represent the visiting tribe and accept the opening fern frond from a partially clothed warrior.    He said it was pretty intimidating while the guy charged forward grunting and yelping and swinging his large stick before presenting the frond on the ground.   By picking it up, he accepted the invitation to visit and received the traditional Maori double nose bump.   It’s meant to show a shared breath in the shared space.

Performers showing how they strike fear to ward off evil

After the meal we watched a series of both tropical and ferocious displays including a sort of version of a hula with arm movements, a quintet of men stomping and announcing their manhood, a plaintive love song between tribal Romeo and Juliet, the animated dance/song version of the original canoes landing on the island, and some great displays of games they have traditionally played.    All the gents were brought up to learn the haka – the traditional Maori fear dance meant to scare off the foe so there isn’t a fight at all.    It involves stomping and shaking of fists and ends with the bugged-out eyes and protruded tongue.    PRICELESS.  

He has learned his Haka lesson well.

(These days the country has embraced the haka and it’s used for all national teams in sport, in particular when the All Blacks rugby team join the field for any international match.)

What’s your experience in New Zealand?   We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on Facebook at “suehendersonphotography