Australia and New Zealand's neighborly rivalry often erupts on the sports field, but it's being played out in an unusual location this week -- the dinner table.
Just who did invent the pavlova, a baked calorie bomb made of egg whites and sugar topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit and named after a Russian-born ballerina? Was it an Australian or a New Zealander?
The great dessert debate is so vexed that a New Zealand university professor is studying the dish's origins. Australians widely credit chef Bert Sachse with inventing the dish at the Esplanade Hotel in the Western Australian city of Perth in 1935 -- although the exact date remains in doubt.
But Professor Helen Leach, of the University of Otago, says she has uncovered New Zealand recipes for the meringue dish -- bearing the name "Pavlova" dated 1929 and 1933. Leach is mystified about the fuss that has erupted this week with media reports in Australia and New Zealand -- saying she reported on the earlier finds last year.
"We've had a 1933 one in New Zealand for a long time, and we've found a 1929 one as well and that's where it stands," she said yesterday.
Media reports on the subject printed this week erupted after a member of her research team gave a talk in New Zealand on the cook who contributed the 1933 recipe, she added. Leach was reluctant to be drawn on why the dispute has lasted so long.
"I would say it has something to do with a small country and a large country, but I'm not going to speculate any further," she said.
Matthew Evans, restaurant critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, says it is unlikely a definitive answer about the pavlova's origins will ever be found.
"People have been doing meringue with cream for a long time, I don't think Australia or New Zealand were the first to think of doing that," he said.
And Evans says ultimately it is irrelevant.
"I think it's a great dish and we should be happy somebody invented it," he said.