Friday, 2 July 2021

The lamington wars

Happy Matariki!

Some time ago I wrote a few posts about which nation between Australia and Aotearoa created the Pavlova (read more here). But who knew that there was yet another layer to sweet creations: that there is - apparently - a dispute about who invented the lamington.

The lamington is a sponge square, rolled in warm chocolate or raspberry sauce, then immediately rolled in coconut; then put aside to set. Lamingtons may be split and filled with whipped cream to serve (Edmonds, 2021).

I had to laugh when I realised that the founding of the lamington is too could have been a 'thing' of dispute between our two Antipodean nations... at least, according to an article in The Guardian (Priol, 2014).

I had never considered that the lamington was a Kiwi creation: if I had thought about it at all, I had probably thought it was British. However, when undertaking some research about the pavolva, I had read that the lamington was an Aussie dessert created for an Australian State Governor. It was apparently an accidental creation by 8th Governor of Queensland Lord Lamington's maid-servant who, while "working at Government House in Brisbane [...] accidentally dropped the Governor's favourite sponge cake into some melted chocolate. Lord Lamington was not a person of wasteful habits and suggested that [the sponge] be dipped in coconut to cover the chocolate to avoid messy fingers. Lord Lamington devoured this new taste sensation with great delight and the maid-servant's error was proclaimed a magnificent success" (Tully, 2009).

This 'dispute' was interesting. The Guardian article claimed that earlier evidence of the founding of the lamington was found in a review by University of Auckland food historian, Dr Arun Silva, of 19th century paintings "by the New Zealand landscape artist JR Smythe". The watercolour painting "'Summer Pantry' dated 1888, [where] a partially eaten Lamington cake is clearly visible on the counter of a cottage overlooking Wellington Harbour" (Priol, 2014). The image is almost impossible to make out in the image published.

I tried a GoogleScholar search for the researcher to find no papers (unusual), and no UoA listing on the staff lists (also unusual). Further, a Google images search found no clearer painting by Smythe, except for the grotty image shown by the Guardian... and one other. The other image was a copy of the Guardian image on the left side, and a 'spot the deliberate mistake' image on the right, showing an empty plate (Abhi's Bread, 2018).

The post by Abhi's Bread was a revelation: the authors had correctly nailed the fact that the post was published in the UK on 31 March, but had actually gone live in the Antipodes on April Fool's Day (morning). The author, was - in full - Olaf Priol: an anagram of April Fool. 

The whole thing was a joke. Dr Arun Silva did not exist. It is possible that JR Smythe does not exist either (as I have not heard of that artist previously, and cannot find any other works by this artist... and the painting is pretty dark for a watercolour). The prank is reminiscent of Forgotten Silver (Jackson & Botes, 1995). Cute! 

The Aussies can relax. The sticky-fingered lamington is all theirs :-)


Sam

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