Culture

The Hill I Will Die On: Pavlova Actually Sucks

Not only does pavlova taste bad, it represents everything that is wrong with the world.

pavlova christmas sucks

The Hill I Will Die On is a regular Junkee series in which we air our pettiest gripes. It should, of course, not be taken very seriously.


This Christmas, I’d rather eat dirt from the hill I’m gonna die on, than consume the ubiquitous eggy sugar pile everyone else will be fawning over. Yes, that’s right, I hate pavlova.

Yes, even your mum’s tightly guarded family recipe (eggs, sugar, acid, cream, fruit), yes even the fancy one with truffle steeped mascarpone, dove egg meringue, and pickled durian. Do not talk to me about aquafaba either, vegans.

I truly hate all pavlovas, completely, utterly and without reservation.

Recipe Pavlova GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I haven’t written end of year clickbait for just any of the old shit foods that get wheeled out at Christmas — your mince pies, your custard, your ham. Have at them.

Taste is subjective, of course and while objectively yours is wrong, I neither care nor am I compelled to convince you otherwise. We are stronger as a species for our diversity of culture and opinion, enjoy your Christmas food kinks, ya freaks.

I’m not just here for the (lack of) flavour, I’m here for the politics of the pav.

In this Serious Piece of Journalism™ I will argue that not only does pavlova taste bad, it represents everything that is wrong with world: politically, socially and culturally.

PAVLOVA IS A CUDGEL OF THE RULING CLASS

I’m coming for the pavlova because it is a colonial institution.

Pavlova is a tool of the State to further subjugate the working classes. Pavlova is an appeal to the worst human instincts, it re-enforces patriarchal hierarchies, and frankly, is a crime against fruit and cream.

Consider my friends the origin story of the pav — it turns out neither Australia nor New Zealand can rightfully claim ownership.

The Heinous Fruity Ovum Puddle was most likely conceived of in Germany, where a meringue cake with fruit and cream had been enjoyed by the ruling classes of Northern Europe since the 1600s. Why only the ruling classes? Well, who else could afford the cost of the ingredients and the staff required to endlessly hand-whip eggs?

The recipe crossed the Atlantic with immigrants and then made its way to the colonies on the back of a cornstarch packet sometime in the 1800s.

Fast forward 30 years and an ageing Russian ballerina toured down under: so impressed were the men-chefs, that they rushed to their recipe clippings and decided en-masse that the only culinary response to an imperialist in a tutu was to vigorously beat egg whites into stiff peaks, cream on top, add sliced strawberries and name it Pavlova.

Six years into the Great Depression, the pav appeared in an Australian cookbook, and off the upper classes went with their hand beaters (the classes unaffected by country-wide mass unemployment, union busting, and mining lock-outs).

The pavlova became a signifier of not poor, not us, we’re fine, look Unfertilised Chicken Baby With Mango.

PAVLOVA IS THE PATRIARCHY

It’s interesting to note that the basis of a good meringue requires ZERO contamination.

The more complicated recipes make you wash and dry the bowl extensively, otherwise those STIFF WHITE PEAKS won’t form. It‘s by definition a fascist dessert. Cut to an overworked housewife on Christmas eve frantically rubbing a mixing bowl with lemon to remove any fatty deposits (all the while repeating her mantra that she must not eat the naughty food tomorrow lest she develop fatty deposits of her own).

Now I’m not a vegan, so I can’t get too high and mighty about the number of eggs required to make a pav, but I am a very big lesbian, so I can tell you with authority that this textural abomination is the most heterosexual of all sweets.

With the exception of a scattering of passionfruit, this creation relies almost exclusively on the reproductive fluids of cows, and chickens (presumably the roosters and bulls trot freely around in the field…right?).

As an aside, the pav uses egg white that, while derived from ovarian output, is also at times the viscous consistency of slightly chilled ejaculate. I don’t know what argument I am trying to make here, I just wanted to gross you out.

So, pav is gross, but what makes it patriarchal?

I put it to you that fierce adherence to the dominant culture is, in essence, patriarchal, but also that I included this section because I hate any heterosexual traditions, especially when the tradition is wet and cold, and feels weird in your mouth, much like I imagine kissing a man would.

PAVLOVA IS A CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER.

It’s Australia. It’s Summer. The nation is burning.

Consider if you will, the incongruity of a delicate dessert prone to melting and spoiling becoming a standard in this country, one that requires both the turning on of an oven, and a spare shelf on the fridge.

Maybe in the chilly mausoleum of Parliament House (or his Hawaiian resort), ScoMo has enough air conditioning to keep cool his Christmassy Cloud of Chicken Ovulation, but at Uncle Brian’s backyard BBQ, that shit’s gonna melt, especially if Uncle Brian lives anywhere near one of the 5.3 MILLION ACRES OF BUSH BURNING DUE TO CLIMATE-CHANGE DRIVEN DROUGHT AND INCREASING TEMPERATURES.

*breathes deeply*

The pav is fragile and moody, sweet and sickly, its crispy white shell belying a spongy softwhite centre that collapses at the merest hint of heat or pressure. The pav doesn’t care about climate change. The pav is Kerri-Anne Kennerley.

GET A PAV UP YA

Whenever I express my disdain for the pav, I am met with a phrase beloved of drunk male colleagues at Christmas parties: “maybe you just haven’t had a good one.”

But, unlike sex with cis-men, which I have experienced only once, I really have tried to give pav a go. I’ve tried the traditional, the store-bought, the fancy, the lovingly-made-by-my-partner… But I just can’t do it anymore.

And so, on this hill of pav I die. But it is no longer a hill because as soon as I tried to climb it, it crumbled and dissolved.

Don’t eat pavlova. EAT THE RICH.


Maeve Marsden is a freelance writer, director, producer and performer based in Sydney. She tweets from @maevemarsden and you can check out her work at maevemarsden.com.