Friday, October 21, 2011

Pavlovas and Wilma

Community spirit is the trump card for living in the country and the reason I love living where I do. There’s nothing quite like the annual district agricultural show to demonstrate that sense of community we can all enjoy. Thanks to the dedicated and hard working team of volunteers, we got to enjoy an excellent outing to the Barham Show last weekend. Beginning with the very social Friday night opening and spectacular fireworks display that no doubt had half the town’s dog population heading for the bush.

Each year I have grand plans to flood the pavilion with entries but sadly my organizational skills are usually in disarray. Suddenly the deadline is upon me before I’ve cracked one egg or looked in the veggie garden for suitably impressive beetroot and my prize-winning photographs are still stored on my computer. 

This year was no exception. 

Luckily I work best under pressure. Actually to be truthful, I only work under pressure. However, I was determined to honour my vow of entering a pavlova in memory of my friend Wilma.

It was thanks to the pavlova section at the Barham Show that I met Wilma Bott. 

2009 was our first year as Barham residents and I was keen to support the local show by entering a few of the categories. Reading through the show booklet I circled a few sections that I felt the boys and I could enter (garden produce, eggs, cookery and my favourite: “the longest gum leaf”).

My mother Caroline is an excellent cook, with her signature dish being the pavlova. Every Sunday afternoon of my childhood we would sit down around the kitchen table to a huge roast lamb dinner (read: 2 yr old merino wether …..much tastier) with all the trimmings; gravy, mint sauce, roast pumpkin, roast kumara (Mother hails from the Land of the Long White Cloud) and roast potato, tomato and onion pie and peas flavoured with handfuls of mint leaves from the garden. This feast culminated in a magnificent marshmallow centred pavlova topped with freshly whipped cream, bananas and passionfruit for pudding. 

Sunday mornings were synonymous with the deafening roar of Mother’s 1966 Kenwood Chef mixer as it whipped up the egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla essence, cold water, vinegar and cornflour.

Having witnessed this ritual for years I was confident I could recreate one of Mother’s masterpieces for the Barham Show. However I had no idea how the pavlova was to be presented. 

I consulted with friends (who also had no idea) and the general consensus was that I must phone Wilma Bott; the original domestic goddess of Barham and winner of numerous pavlova competitions. 

Wilma happily shared her knowledge. She went on to come second in the pavlova section that year and I came in fourth. We met less than a week later in person, where Wilma introduced me to the delights of her yo-yo biscuits and chocolate eclairs and I introduced her to the benefits of massage therapy.

Last Thursday at 5pm was the deadline to enter the pavlova section; I started cracking eggs at 2pm and had a client booked in for a massage at 4pm.

Cracking eggs when you are feeling “under the pump” is not recommended. Fourteen eggs later I had finally managed to correctly separate the eight eggs necessary for my mega pav recipe (I was beginning to wish I was entering a frittata instead of a pavlova). I raced the still warm pavlova to the showground with minutes to spare.

Days later and I am still basking in the glory of winning the coveted 1st prize, although I suspect it may only be due to divine intervention ….thanks Wilma.

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