I guess the sentiment expressed in the title of this post is self-evident – at least for now, as I don’t believe anyone has been able to reverse time. I turned 70 nearly a week ago, but that is not what reminded me that I’m getting old(er). It was something much more mundane that made me realise the truth in the title.
I’m one of those people who embrace wild weather. It’s more than a simple adrenaline rush, although that’s certainly a part of it. The wilder the weather, the more I feel an integral part of it; the more I feel alive. It’s wonderful. But not yesterday.
Yesterday was one of those days my wife detests. It was around 7°C (13°F) cooler than the day before, there was on and off rain ranging from showers to downpours, and the wind was approaching gale force at times – some of our trees gave the impression they were bowing to Tāwhirimātea (the god of weather).
I thought it would be a good opportunity to get reunited with the elements and went outside with the expectation of experiencing the euphoria that usually arrives within moments of feeling the forces of nature. Nothing happened.
I stood there bracing myself in the wind and all I felt was damp moisture-laden air blowing into every opening in my clothing. It was unpleasant.
I waited. Then waited some more, all the time getting more cold by the minute. Finally I decided that getting cold without the usual perks was somewhat senseless, and returned to the warmth of inside.
I accept that earthquakes seldom live up to their potential and I’m unlikely to experience a roller coaster style ride more than once or twice a decade, so I don’t sense disappointment when 99% of them go out with a whimper instead of a bang. But the weather is different. Inclement weather always give me a lift proportional to its ferocity. Until yesterday.
I don’t know when anticipation has been followed by such a let down. For me it doesn’t happen very often, but never before has weather such as we experienced yesterday been a catalyst. I can only put it down to the effects of ageing.
The last occasion of such disappointment was a number of years ago on a cruise ship. The cruise line has a reputation for the high quality of its cuisine, so when I saw that one of the deserts on the evening menu was pavlova, I didn’t hesitate in ordering it. Two Aussies who shared the table with us commented that I was brave, or foolish in about equal measure, but I replied that based on the reputation of the cruise line I should be in for a treat.
For those who don’t know, pavlova is our national dessert and we’ll whisk one up for
any every occasion. Australia has taken such a liking to our dessert, that they now claim it as their own, although every Kiwi knows the Aussies are mistaken. They, too, know a real pavlova when they see one. The other passengers at the table didn’t have a clue what a pavlova was. Neither did the chef.
The moment the dish was placed in front of me, one of the Aussies quipped “I warned ya!”, and it was very obvious that I should have heeded their earlier caution. What lay in front of me was obviously a meringue – a very large one, about 15cm (6 inches) in diameter and around 4cm (1.5 inches) high at its highest point – and just as obvious, it most certainly was not a pavlova.
I can tell you right now, smothering a meringue with a thick layer of whipped cream and topping it with a few strawberries and a slice of kiwifruit does not a pavlova make. I think the disappointment on my face was obvious as all the dinners at the table, apart from the two Aussies and the wife, wanted to know what was wrong.
The similarity between a meringue and a pavlova is only skin deep. Literally. A meringue is typically crisp and crunchy throughout, or sometimes hollow in the centre, and I would describe a meringue as being dry. In contrast, a pavlova has a thin crisp and crunchy outer shell, but the inside is soft, moist , fluffy and slightly marshmallow-like. The density is almost like fine foam and should be just firm enough to support the weight of a spoon, but can be cut by the spoon with the merest application of pressure. In the mouth, the centre melts with light tongue pressure. The outer shell is thin and fragile and it’s rare to find a pavlova that doesn’t appear to be broken to some extent. A perfectly intact shell is a good indication that it is too thick.
I didn’t have the heart to tell the waiter what I thought of the dessert, as my wife had returned three fish dishes during the meal due to them being overcooked. Two days later, my wife had words with the head chef with regards to overcooked fish, but that’s perhaps a story for another day.