You Got A Friend In Me

“I have a friendship cake that I think I might have to bake during our stay at Jane’s – is it acceptable to take cake batter on a road trip?”  Helen asked one day, via email.

“What on earth is a friendship cake?” I replied.

Her answer didn’t really clear things up, “Herman is a friendship cake – he’s German.”

‘”I’m so confused right now” I told her, “you don’t even know.”

A few days later, with my own little [gooey] Herman and a set of instructions it all became clear. Herman is a chain letter. Or rather he’s a chain cake, a sour dough cake in fact,  and he comes with no horrible consequences but rather a lot of responsibility [if you put him in the fridge he will die; if he stops bubbling he is dead; some days he gets hungry and eventually, no matter how much you feed him, he winds up starving.]

I poured him into a mixing bowl and poked at him with a spoon. He didn’t look well. I worried the outlook wasn’t good. Still, God loves a trier. “This is Herman.” I told Ian as I covered him [Herman, not Ian] with a tea-towel, “We have to look after him.” I patted the bowl and adjusted the towel,  “I hope you’ll like it here Herman.”

That of course was my major mistake. Herman, along with my cars and my camper and several other objects in my life had been anthropomorphised and as such as I was obviously about to form an attachment to him– yes, my vehicles all have names and yes I refer to the garage as the car hospital and yesyesyes I got a little teary last week when Ian talked about cleaning Karina Camper ready for sale [‘she doesn’t want to be sold,’ he told me, ‘she just stopped working when I was cleaning her, like she knew….’]

So there I was forming an attachment to Herman the German, responsible for his health and wellbeing and then after ten days expected to cook him and freeze his fingers.

This was not going to end well.

And so it began.

I stirred Herman religiously, watching him worriedly immediately afterwards [should he be bubbling? I can’t see him bubbling…oh god, he isn’t bubbling, is he dead? Ian, does he look ok to you? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU NEITHER KNOW NOR CARE YOU HEARTLESS B*****D]; I fed him when he was hungry with a muttered “I hope you don’t mind semi-skimmed Herman” and a last stir for luck; I got a text message off Ian one day when I was at work [it has become pretty clear to me over that past 4 and a half years that whilst Ian may at times mock me for my quirks, there is no denying he is a total enabler] Herman has had an accident….opened the cupboard for a vimto.. And all the bags of crisps and delicately balanced mugs all fell.. Now I caught the mugs.. But a bag of crisps got away and hit Herman bang on his bonce …. Oh Eck.. to which I hurriedly replied asking whether he was ok and forcing myself not to berate my boyfriend [can you not be more careful damn you. How would you like it if I dropped a load of stuff on your head] – he was fine, thank goodness – and when, halfway through my 10 days with Herman I went away for the weekend I left Ian with very strict instructions to ‘look after Herman’ rather than just to ‘stir the cake mix.’

Herman was happy I think, with us. Ian complained that he smelt bad, which, let’s be honest he did but it wasn’t his  fault and it was pretty mean of Ian to keep commenting on it  because other than that he was the perfect house guest, and despite my initial worries it became increasingly obvious that he would survive his time with us.  This was an achievement on my part – I can’t even keep a cactus alive usually.  So Herman lived,  until day 10 of course, when he wouldn’t but I chose not to dwell on that.

Last night was D-Day for Herman, and I felt a little melancholy as I added the final ingredients and gave him one last stir before transferring him to a roasting tin and then, feeling rather like the wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel, into the oven.  
‘Poor Herman.’ I said to Ian as he leant against the kitchen counter, dipping his finger into Herman’s uncooked remains . He laughed and held out the bowl. I shook my head: I couldn’t.

But then, like a sign from the Gods there was the most delicious smell, a smell of apples and cinnamon and yumminess; a smell of home and of love and of happy ever after that permeated our house and from upstairs in the bedroom I called down to Ian ‘he smells amazing.’

He smelt amazing, and, when we placed still warm hunks into bowls and ate them with ice-cream whilst curled up on the sofa watching Glee, he tasted amazing and when I had a fully cooled slice with my coffee this morning he still tasted amazing and I figured this was Herman’s way of telling me it was ok.  It was okay that I cooked him and ate him because I didn’t let him die, instead I allowed him to fulfil his cakey destiny and, it’s not like he’s gone; his children and his brothers and his cousins live on in the homes of friends all over the country, maybe even all over the world and how amazing is that? [A tiny bit of me really hopes one of them winds their way to me because seriously. YUMMY.]

So here’s to you Herman the German, you’ll always be my favourite friendship cake.