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18/05/2011 / melgardener

Food Memories

We all have food memories. Whether good, bad or indifferent, we all have had experiences with food that seem to live on in our hearts and minds. For some people it’s the smell of the ubiquitous Sunday roast, for others it might be the buffet of pancakes consumed on a weekend morning. Some memories might be from a childhood, others from a time more nearby.

My own food memory is particularly special to me and, among my family, this story has been told and retold to such an extent that I believe it’s almost created its own legend.

When I was young, my brother and I had a favourite treat – Pavlova. It was an every-now-and-again treat and we looked forward to it with the anticipation only children can muster. Mum would buy the ingredients, mix the meringue, and place it on the baking tray. My brother and I would greedily lick the beaters (and the bowl if we could get our hands on it).

The Pavlova would be placed in the oven and we would wait.

When the allotted time had passed, the oven would be duly opened and my brother and I would hover expectantly, waiting to hear:

“Oh no! It’s a disaster!”

At which point we would cheer mightily.

Allow me to explain: I rather suspect that our very old, very tired oven wasn’t too great at maintaining a temperature for more than about five minutes so what would happen to delicate items such as meringue is that they would sink in the middle as soon as the oven door was opened.

When this happened, my brother and I knew that an oasis of sticky meringue goo awaited us in the centre of this delicious mound of egg white and sugar. Mum, duly trying to cover up the sunken middle, would further enhance our joy by adding extra cream to make the top level, thus creating a sweet sensation to die for.

Mum, of course, didn’t share our joy. She was always so disappointed when the Pavlova sunk and did not see it as a mark of pride, rather a smear on her otherwise impeccable reputation.

It even got to the point where we would not request Pavola, instead begging mum for a Disaster. Even now, more than 30 years in the future, we talk fondly of our love for Disasters. Mum’s ovens have since been improved and it’s rare these days for her to produce anything like the Disasters of my childhood.

And maybe that’s a good thing. My adult palette may not enjoy those elements that, as a child, we held in highest esteem. Maybe this memory needs to be left alone – the family legend that will be a part of my mum’s legacy forever.

Do you have a food memory? What was your best/worst food experience?

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