“…in joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair”
– excerpt from the Australian National Anthem.
By the end of a long summer holiday period, the Australia Day Parade was a much anticipated event in my bucolic home town on the Murray. As many would gather with their fellow community club cronies, the rest of the townsfolk would huddle en masse under the canopys of eucalypt and plain trees, sparsely dotted along the parade-route nature strips between the Shire Office and the Civic Centre. At the conclusion of the meandering spectacle, paraders were careered and packed like over-fished Murray Cod into tightly spaced isles of vinyl, flip seats in anticipation of the formal ceremony to come. Local sporting, volunteer and business heroes were cloaked in accolades of glory. Community doyens gave endearing addresses. And, to close the morning, we all stood to sing in unison the first two verses of the Australian National Anthem. Never once, as a young country girl proud to be dressed in my Girl Guide uniform, did I feel the need to question the euphoric feelings of happiness that naturally accompanied the deeply rooted sensation that was belonging.
In recent times, the sea of joyous “celebrations” that gurt Australia Day have been called into question and appeals to change the date, name and historical underpinnings of the commemoration have gained political and societal traction. For many Indigenous Australians, the arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson (1788) marks the beginnings of what has been a gradual demise in identity, self respect and culture. In a survey conducted by the Australia Institute in 2018 only 38% of the 1,417 Australians questioned could correctly state the historical reasons for the public holiday. This somewhat alarming level of ignorance may explain why, despite the well publicised use of the overtly negative moniker “Invasion Day”, only slightly more than one third (37%) of those polled thought that the day was offensive to our First Australians.
I confess without shame, that the 26th of January will always be a day that comes bearing the gifts of jovial, wealth for community-toil memories of my girlhood past. While I acknowledge the wrong-doings of my White-Australian Ancestors, I cannot rectify the bygone atrocities. I can only hope that, together with the many other parents in my spheres of kinship influence, our commitment to raising children who respect and value the contributions that all people make to our ever-evolving socio-cultural milieu, Indigenous Australians will gain a sense of long-term reparation and restitution.
This Australia Day, after a morning of cultural infusion at our towns local museum, Scott, the kids and I, relished in the joyful strains of BBQ centred banter before rounding out the rather salubrious afternoon with a touch of third generation family fare: three layers of cream filled, golden soil-esque pavlova topped with a bevy of young and free strawberries.
For your delectation. The Recipe for Pavlova. Courtesy of my Grandmother…from New Zealand!
8 egg whites (preferably at room temperature)
½ tsp salt
500 g caster sugar
4 tsp arrowroot flour
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence
300 ml pure cream
1 punnet of strawberries
We are renowned throughout our neighbourhood lands for being able to put leftovers to good use. Thanks to my children’s growing summer appetite for ice-cream, egg-whites – which we keep frozen at the ready – are a boundless, plain-ingredient to share. Whipped up with a tin-roofed-shed load of sugar and you have a good ol’ fashioned “Australian” dessert.
Grease and line with baking paper, three trays (they must be atleast 22 cm wide). In the middle of each sheet of baking paper, trace around a plate (18 – 20 cm in diameter) using pencil. Preheat the oven to 150oC.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg-whites and salt until stiff, satiny peaks can be formed. Adding ¼ of the sugar at a time, beat the egg-white mixture, again, until stiff and satiny. Whisk in the arrowroot flour, vinegar and vanilla essence. The egg-white mixture should be able to hold form when a spoonful is released on top of the meringue-like mound. Whisk in a little more sugar if you need. In the middle of each baking paper circle, drop 1/3 of the egg-white mixture. Using a butter knife, spread the mixture to the edges of the circle ensuring an even covering.
Place the trays into the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 120oC and cook for a further 35 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool inside for 1 – 2 hours. Remove and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
When ready to serve, whisk the cream until stiff peaks form. Create the meringue stack by lathering 1/3 of the cream on top of each meringue. Stack the meringues. Slice the strawberries into thin slithers and pile on the top most layer.
Using a sharp knife, cut the Pavlova Cake into wedges. With courage, let you and your guests combine their best sugar eating spirits to Advance Australian Fare!