One of my kitchen staff came outside on the patio where I was hanging a sign.

“The fire alarm just went off”

“Fine, I’ll be there in a minute.” I responded.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed this look of consternation on the faces of two women who were having coffee and were within earshot of the exchange. The expression of worry didn’t make sense until I realize what they heard. They took it literally.

Kitchens are notorious for having a language of their own. We refer to some of the tools of the trade as a sham, lowboy or china cap with commonly held understanding. You may scratch your head wondering what in the world we are talking about, but rub shoulders with us at work behind the counter and eventually you will realize what the slow cooking cabinet, a short refrigerator with a flat work top and a fine mesh strainer is.

Some terms are common from kitchen to kitchen, but everyplace has its own terms of endearment. At a closeout sale, I bought a kitchen timer with three separate clocks, thinking it would be helpful with all the timed baking we do, but to my chagrin, when time’s up, it sounds like a smoke detector or fire alarm with a piercing, nagging beep that makes an unknowing customer nervous. It is effective, however, and we seldom let anything burn as we race to shut that thing off before we clear the house.

The ladies outside had thought a real fire alarm went off, and once I caught up with their racing minds, was able to explain the story and share a good laugh.

The item in the oven was Pavlova, one of my most favorite spring/summer desserts. I’ll share the recipe below and see if you can recreate it at home. The key is low heat that allows the meringue to dry out slowly.


6 large egg whites
1.5 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoon vinegar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat eggs whites till frothy and peaks begin to form
Slowly add sugar, allowing it to dissolve
When stiff peaks form, fold in last three ingredients

Transfer to a piping bag
Pipe onto lined baking sheet. We pipe small 2 inch discs, but traditionally it is spread out into 12” rounds, 1/2 inch thick.

Two baking methods:

  • Bake in oven at 375 for 10min.
  • Turn off oven.
  • Pavlova should be firm and brittle.


  • Bake in oven at 250 for 40 min
  • Check for doneness, should be firm, shell-like brittle surface
  • If not done, continue baking, checking at 10 min intervals
  • Remove from oven and let cool

Once cooled, place one meringue disc on a plate on a dot of whipped cream. This prevents the dessert from sliding around on the plate. Put a spoon of fresh fruit, (we use macerated strawberries) on the disc, followed by a dollop of whipped cream. Add another meringue disc, with more fresh fruit and top with more whipped cream and a leaf of mint. The picture shows a sugar halo, but we’ll wait for another post to share that technique.

What, did you steal that pan from a hotel?