Sunday 5 February 2012

Thoughts on Herman the German

Recently we were given a (or is it the?) Herman the German Friendship cake mix from our friend Clare Chapman.  He's not much to look at - a bowl of bubbling gluey stuff, destined to a be a sourdough cake of some sort in a couple of weeks.

I wonder how German he is, and given my German ancestry, why I'd never come across him before.  The ancestry of this particular cake mix, apparently goes back to the 1970s - a bit worrying given the health and safety implications.

When you get a Herman, the first thing you do is wait a few days (do not put him in a fridge or he will die).  Then you feed him flour, sugar and milk, and leave him a while, wait a few days, then feed him some more.  At this point you divide him up into four and give away three of them to friends (there really is a bit of him that goes back a few decades).  He's a sort of 'pyramid' cake, where the intention is to make friends, not money.

As you can imagine, it's getting quite exciting now, as we think about who to give our mix to (anyone interested let us know!), and what type of Herman ours will become - at the moment apple is a strong contender, with outside chance of poppy seed.

It's the same kind of excitement I got when we had a turnip glut from our shared allotment in 1997, and I must have had a bit of time on my hands.  That was the year of the infamous turnip wine, and turnip cake.  We found a turnip cake recipe in a Guardian supplement years later, which I think justified the experiment - Wine and cake didn't taste bad, but left an unmistakeable turnipy after-taste.

Anyway, back to Herman.  First thoughts are, what a fantastic creative buzz, and yet, is there anything remotely creative about the cake?  You just follow instructions passed down to you.  Then I dug up David Gaunlett's definition of creativity:

'You have a world of people doing amazing, silly, clever, pointless, or heartfelt things, and putting them out in the world for others to experience, because they want to, and that seems to be more like what 'creativity' is meant to be all about.

Creativity is something that is felt, not something that needs expert verification.'

Herman might not be new or innovative, but he is to me.  He's made me feel part of something far bigger, and at the end of it, I'm passing that onto three very select friends, and a few more when we eat him.  Thanks Clare.

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  1. Glad you found the essence of Herman! A bit of sharing fun :)

    Would be nice, if when you pass on Herman to your chosen friends, you pass on this blog url as well...then everyone who gets a piece of Herman in the future can log him on this blog!

    It'll bring Herman into the 21st Centuary - and it would be fun to see if we could track his progress. We might find some new recipes and friends as we follow him on his journey :)

    "Cake is happiness! If you know the way of the cake, you know happiness!"
    C.JoyBell C.

  2. Will do. And if it takes off, how's about a 'How German's Herman?' page, to track his ancestry to the mists of time?

    'There is no way to cake, cake is the way' Buddha Cakemakeya