Pavlova: Week 61

“What’s the difference between castor sugar and white sugar?”

I consulted locals in the supermarket and solicited advice from the hostel manager. Although I had not tasted, let alone seen a Pavlova, I felt that the Kiwi-as meringue-like dessert was in capable hands.

“The secret is to beat it for fifteen minutes.”

Soon after I laid out my ingredients I whipped them into a stiff foamy batter and dropped it on a baking sheet. It looked like a bubble bath cloud until I sculpted and smoothed the sides with a spoon. After only twenty minutes my Pavlova was ready for the oven.

Two hours after it went in I was persuaded to peek at my creation. I could see nothing through the opaque oven window so I lowered the door. Initially the oven appeared empty until my eyes adjusted and I discovered that my cake was merely being camouflaged. My foamy construction had collapsed into a bleak charcoal black ruin.

Due to a misreading of my own handwriting, I had set the temperature thirty degrees too high. Although my first ever Pavlova was dismal, I gave the recipe another go. The second was less burnt but just as flat and the third faithfully followed suit.

It was midnight and I was nowhere close to a golden crispy shell and marshmallow-y soft interior. At work my boss assured me that my failure stemmed from my nationality. In his eyes a good Pavlova automatically grants New Zealand citizenship. Sure I can make Hokey Pokey and kiwifruit jam like the best of them, but I just don’t think I am ready yet to take that kind of immigration test.

How to (maybe) make Pavlova:

(From the complete Edmonds Sure to Rise Recipe Book)

  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 Tbsp cold water
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 Tsp vinegar
  • 1 Tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tsp corn flour
  1. Preheat oven to 150˚C or 300˚F
  2. Beat egg whites till stiff, add cold water and beat again.
  3. Add castor sugar very gradually while still beating (should beat for a total of 15 min).
  4. Slow beater to add vinegar, vanilla, and corn flour.
  5. Place on baking paper and bake for 45 minutes. Leave it in the oven to cool, do not open the oven!

65 Hour Work Week: Week 60

Ubong nia! Teo diena. Good morning! Sleep well.

I rolled the Lau phrase around my mouth. I wanted to repeat it to the other Solomon Island ladies when our shift ended and the translucent roof panels began to glow at sunrise. Feeling confident, I asked Evaline for a new phrase to practice, this time in Pidjin English. Only two rotating belts separated Evaline and me, but it was hard to hear her over the roar of the machine. She wore layers of knit sweaters and jackets over her warm brown skin; leaving only the faint sun patterns etched into her cheeks exposed to the night chill.

“How do you say ‘I am deaf’?”

“Mi ear pass now,” she repeated several times.

It wasn’t easy learning new words in a factory, but it made my eleven hour shift more bearable. It helped me ignore my aching feet, infected pinky (it got stuck in the machine) and my boxes that were piling up. The young stacker on my line was off flirting again with his fellow Argentinean coworkers.

Earlier in the week I had been asked to work for quality control. I preened my feathers and brandished my clipboard because I was chosen to do something new. However, I soon realized that quality control attracts the most miserable people. My boss never said ‘please’ and didn’t like the way I counted kiwifruit. Her shrill commands were delivered with fiery halitosis and punctuated by a mid-life crisis tongue piercing. The smoker’s wrinkles she collected carved deep lines into her thick pasty skin and her fleshy warts gave her a toady appearance. She always wore a neon safety vest and when she felt jaunty she sported a Copacabana sarong over her leggings. I affectionately referred to her as the Dragon. When I tired of asking redundant questions just to irritate her, I quit inspecting gold kiwifruit and relinquished my clipboard.

By the end of the week I was back on the packing line and in need of a new phrase to mull over for the next few hours.

How do you say, “I want to go to sleep right now?”

“Mi go sleep quick time.” Evaline replied.

A girl can dream, right?

Hokey Pokey: Week 59

It was my third week in Te Puke and I was drawing blanks. What should I do that I hadn’t done before…. I could use a backpack vacuum for the first time. Or wash my car. Maybe try a new section of the kiwifruit factory line… I have never graded kiwifruit, but I heard it makes people dizzy and sleepy. Then it hit me- if I’m in New Zealand, I should try to make as many local dishes as possible.

Recalling my disastrous foray into Korean cuisine, I picked an easy recipe to start. Hokey pokey is a light, crisp and sugary candy with only three ingredients: sugar, golden syrup and baking soda. I dissolved the sugar into the golden syrup and stirred my sweet cauldron for five minutes

After removing the pan from the burner I added baking soda and the reaction was instantaneous. The dark sugary liquid exploded in size, taking on a golden foamy texture. When the mixture stopped growing I slathered it onto a pan like a coating of fried chicken insulation.

“Is there any way to…”

“Make it pretty?” I finished a curious onlooker’s thought. “Probably, but I don’t know how.” Sure it was a little ugly, but once I sprinkled it over vanilla ice cream it was a sweet success. While it is harder to do something new in a small town, the challenge is rewarding and sometimes even delicious.

How to make Hokey Pokey:

(From the complete Edmonds Sure to Rise Recipe Book)

  • 5 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

1.)    Bring sugar & golden syrup to a boil, slowly stirring all the time.

2.)    Simmer gently for 4 minutes over a low heat, stir occasionally.

3.)    Remove from heat & add baking soda. Stir quickly till it froths and pour into a greased pan. Let it cool at room temperature.

4.)    Break it up when cold & store in air tight jars.

Kiwi 360: Week 58

Next to our hostel is a giant kiwifruit statue which, depending on your direction, is either a green slice or a gold one. Inside the statue a staircase leads up to an outdoor platform with a panoramic view of the parking lot. I’m not sure what the architect’s intention was, but at least they had the foresight to break up the asphalt with a few flowering trees.

Across from the jumbo sized kiwifruit is the Kiwi 360 gift shop. As the town’s main attraction it tries to turn backbreaking agricultural labor into an exciting experience. There are tram tours through orchards and packhouses and if that isn’t exciting enough, there’s even a helicopter tour. I know it’s a short trip though because I hear it roar overhead every time it departs or returns.

However, it was a lazy Sunday and Barret and I weren’t looking for expensive thrills. We entered the gift shop craning our necks around possum fur sweaters and kiwifruit chocolate until finally we saw what we had come for- kiwifruit wine. The saleswoman opened a chilled bottle at the register and directed us to the wine glasses without making us feel like early afternoon alcoholics. In the café downstairs Barret even found a blanket and voila, we had a sunny afternoon picnic on the grass.

The wine was light and clear like a Riesling. Its crisp and sweet flavor was punctuated with floral notes and a delicate kiwifruit aftertaste. We might have been outside a gift shop, but it felt like the Seine- relaxing and romantic. Why can’t all work days start like this?

How to get to Kiwi 360: Bay of Plenty, 25 minutes southeast of Tauranga on State Highway 2

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