A special dinner was being organised tonight and I was asked to bring a dish that best represents me and my experiences. Automatically I tried to think of a Korean dish because often in the past I would bring Korean food such as mandu, bulgogi, and kimbap because they were different/exotic in the eyes of Kiwis & Aussies. However, I realised none of the Korean dishes represented who I am. Although I am a pure-breed Korean, for a long time I have been considering myself as a Kiwi/Aussie. Also thanks to having developed an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) I cannot enjoy most of the Korean cuisine as I used to.
Then it hit me all of a sudden. Pavlova. It was perfect. Both Kiwis and Aussies claim that it is their national dish and argue over its origins, but no one really knows exactly where it originated from. Recent studies (1, 2) seem to suggest that its origin can be traced back to Germany and the dessert as we know it was created in America. So pavlova, while officially is a Kiwi/Aussie dessert, it is very likely originated elsewhere. Like pavlova, I am officially a Kiwi/Aussie (dual citizenship) but I originated elsewhere (Korea). Most of the time I feel like I belong in New Zealand and Australia, but sometimes I don’t feel like I belong at all. Like pavlova, my national identity is mixed and confusing.
Another thing that made pavlova so perfect was my initial reaction to Pavlova when I first encountered its taste in New Zealand. I hated it. I was so used to cakes being sponge cakes like most cakes in Korea were back then. Compared to the sponge cake, pavlova did not feel like cake at all – I felt rather ripped off! 22 years later, I love this cake so much. It is the best cake ever: sweet but light, gluten-free, and has colourful fruits (although which fruits should go on top is an ongoing debate). Getting to the point though, my experience with Pavlova perfectly summarises my experience as an immigrant. My initial reaction to both New Zealand and Australia when I arrived was negative. The environment felt strange and it was difficult to understand the people and the culture. Over time though, I have learnt to love both countries and now I see them as my home.
Just like pavlova though, I have a slight preference towards the kiwi-land 😉