A strange sight would have met your eyes, were you to have entered the kitchen of Tea Head Quarters on the morning of the 10th day. I couldn’t get the stamps off the ruined envelopes, so there they sat, limp and discoloured on the draining board to dry while a bowl-full of cake mixture bubbles along contentedly from its prefered spot on the toaster.
We resent the cake again, this time using surgical tape and industrial quantities of string to stop the lids from erupting, while we completed the final stages of the recipe.
At last! Just when we were begining to question how long we could stretch this feature out, the final day is nearly upon us. I get out the address book only to find that I don’t have anyone’s current addresses. Several texts and a ball of string later and here we go:
I take the packages up on the train with me to London, intending to post them as soon as I can find a box. 4 hours later I’m still carrying them around like a lemon. The security guard at the Tate Modern gives me a token and a very funny look when I go to check them in. I notice a funny smell but put it down to the drains on the South Bank. We’ve still got the blasted things in the bag come the afternoon and we’re in Selfridges when I look down at my coat and notice something sticky. I go to wipe it off but it has the opposite effect. I look down at my shoes and the same sticky residue is evident there too.
Glancing behind me I see a thin trail of slime, stretching out like that of a monsterous snail. People are giving me funny looks and I realise what the smell is. All three mini-Hermans have exploded in their envelopes and are gaily leaking their contents all over the 5th floor.
We managed to talk the management into giving us one of their smart yellow bags, shortly before we are thrown out. We do try to explain that it’s cake mixture but we don’t sound convincing, even to ourselves. We return to THQ with our tails between our now rather sticky legs and rethink our options.
We are both sick of the sight and smell of the thing but since there is only a day to go we decide to stick at it. I take it down from the top of the boiler and reinstate it on the toaster in preparation for day 9.
I go out to the Post Office and spend about £20 on stamps and padded envelopes. We decide to send our Hermans out to old friends who we haven’t seen in a while. Lily is against the idea from the start but I convince her it will be a nice way of keeping in touch.
Lily takes it to mean 7 or 8 vigorous assaults with a whisk, a fact which I am able to deduce by the spattering of cake mixture all over the boiler, the walls and, remarkably, the ceiling too. Herman is loving all the attention; the bin is not. There is now a sizable dent in the lid from where we’ve been climbing all over it to stir the cake, and there is a bruise the size of a large melon on my left hip.
We’re meant to be “stiring well” every day for 4 days. What does that mean, exactly? I take it to mean 3 or 4 quick stirs with a teaspoon.
“Herman is hungry” says the instructions. Lily is besides herself with excitement so I decide not to let slip that I already fed it the day before. Not much appears to be happening so we move it to on top of the boiler. It can now only be reached by standing on a bin, balanced on a chair. We very nealry loose the whole thing when Lily gets up in the middle of the night “to check up on it…”
I’m getting twitchy at this point so while Lily is out in the garden doing whatever she does with old tea leaves I sneakily add some more sugar to rev things up a bit.
Here we are then, Herman is bubbling away in a mixing bowl on top of the toaster, covered in an old tea towel. Still not quit sure what to make of it all. No-one we speak to appears to have heard of Herman and I ring our friend (who is infact German herself) to make sure this isn’t a joke. She assures me it is not, and I believe her; humour is not her strong point.
There was a dinner party yesterday evening at THQ, to which one of the guests brought the most thoughtful present I can remember. Instead of the usual combination of service station flowers, hand-me-down chocolates or wine from the shop at the end of the road (are we alone here?) she brought…. a small tupperware container of a gloopy, beige-coloured, boozy concoction which she introduced as “Hermann”.
If – as we were – you’re still in the dark then allow me to bring you up to speed with the trend which is apparently sweeping the nation:
Hermann is a live yeast culture which you can start yourself or inherit from friends. The ingredients are basically flour, sugar and yeast and it bubbles away quite happily on you kitchen worktop over the course of 9 days and all you have to do it top it up occasionally with more nutrients and watch it grow. By the 10th day you should have accumulated enough of the mixture to split 4 ways: 3 you are meant to pot up and give to friends of your own, whilst to the fourth you add more sugar and flour, eggs, apples, raisins and cinnamon and bake into a delicious cake.
This is the theory anyway…