Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Herman the Friendship cake and Jess come to stay

A few weeks ago my friend Chris rang from Yorkshire asking if we could put her daughter up for a couple of weeks while she found a house share in London.  We were delighted to help out feeling it was payback time – fair exchange for when Chris had looked after my daughter up in Yorkshire a few years ago.  Jess arrived laden down with suitcases, a lovely bottle of wine and a plastic container containing a dubious bubbling substance.  That was our introduction to Herman, her friendship cake mixture which we were to empty into a bowl and nurture for ten days carefully following her special written instructions.

Herman baby
We set Herman up on the kitchen bench in a bowl covered with a tea towel and proceeded to stir him with a wooden spoon each time we passed, talking to him as instructed,  until the fourth day when we had to feed him with milk, sugar and flour, then continue the tlc for another four days. On the 9th day we were to divide him into five little Hermans , four to give away and the last to cook into a cake.

Herman is as demanding as a pet but makes an absolutely delicious cake.  I took one into the Enquiry Unit last week for everyone to share.  People asked why it was called a friendship cake.  As I started to explain, the whole office became involved and it reminded me of Arlo Guthrie doing his 1967 monologue of Alice’s Restaurant.
It starts 
“This song is called Alice's Restaurant, and it's about Alice, and the restaurant, 
but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant, that's just the name
of the song, and that's why I called the song Alice's Restaurant”  then 
meanders in the most wonderful fashion for a further 18 minutes.
Alice's restaurant album cover 
As I explained how Herman was alive and needed lots of nurturing a debate arose about what was alive and what wasn’t.  Jo** started it by stating that Herman could not possibly be alive.  The conversation went something like this:

Jo: I mean he is not wandering around my house having a shower and helping himself to the contents of my fridge is he?

Me:   No but Jo – really … Is that tree outside alive?

Jo:  Yes but that is different.

Me:  No it’s not. It’s alive and it is not wandering around your house is it?

Jo:  Look you’re being silly.

Me:  …and an elephant is alive and it is not wandering around your house taking a shower and helping itself to the contents of your fridge.  Ants are alive and they are not either.

Jo: …but at least they have legs.

Me: …but a snake is alive and it doesn’t have legs and neither does a worm or a tree.

By this time I had enlisted my fellow pedant Cherie as staunch supporter while Steve, the sane and sensible one in the office who deals with the schools of science informed us of the link he had emailed us.  We opened it to an email entitled  ”ALIVE!” with the following link:


This explains how yeast is alive and gives full instructions for setting up an experiment to show  how it breathes.  Jo then went rather quiet but Cherie and I were not going to let him get away with it that easily.

Cherie and me:  There you go! See! See!

Jo:  How do you expect me to believe that – it’s American!

Now that was below the belt- I felt I had to defend my heritage but by this time Jo suddenly became very busy immersing himself in his work.  Then Anne, also very sane and sensible, announced that she had found a whole Herman website.  That was truly exciting especially with its world map showing all the people who had logged onto it and lots of new recipes for me to try.  If you aren’t lucky enough to be presented with a baby Herman, you can learn how to birth your own little one on this site:

These are the instructions that came with my Herman:

…and while you are happily tending your little Herman you can listen to some more Arlo Guthrie.  I love his motorcycle song and happily sang it to my kids as they rode pillion on the back of my motorcycle trying not to fall asleep.

“I don’t want a pickle
I just want to ride on my motor cycle
I don’t want to die
I just want to ride on my motorcy ……cle.”

*If you do not know this great monologue from 1967 catch it here – it’s a classic! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m57gzA2JCcM&feature=fvwrel
** I have changed all names to prevent any undue embarrassment that may arise from the publication of this blog

Herman baby: http://victoriapitkin.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/german-friendship-cake-baking-from.html
Alice’s Restaurant album cover:   en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alice's_Restaurant.jpg

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