We’re taught very early on that honesty is the best way and that fibbing is bad. Hmmm... personally, I’m not so sure. I think there are times when a well-placed fib can be in everybody’s best interest.
Case in point: two weekends ago, as my boyfriend and I were leaving my parents’ house, my mum suddenly ran back into the house and came out carrying a clingfilm-covered plate.
“I’ve been meaning to give you this Friendship Cake,” she said, thrusting the plate into my hands.
We eyed the ‘cake’ dubiously, which looked a little like a lump of mouldy semolina. ‘Lovely,’ said Adam – my other half – a wobbly smile on his face.
She then proceeded to explain the concept of ‘Friendship Cake’ to me, while Adam and my dad quickly picked up their previous conversation about Broadband Infinity – a topic which, in my opinion, they’d already flogged to death once that morning over coffee and Kitkats.
My mum had bought the cake – named, rather strangely, Herman – a couple of days before, when he was merely an infant jar of yeasty mixture. She’d added sugar and flour, before dividing him into five portions (poor guy) which she was now passing out among her ‘friends’ (see where this is going?)
I now had to ‘care’ for Herman Junior for another 10 days until he ‘grew up’ into a beautiful sourdough cake that we could eat while thinking lovely heart-warming thoughts of the journey that had brought us to that point and the people whose love had brought him into our lives.
That’s a lot of work for cake. And I do love cake – as much, if not more, than the next person. But Tesco has beautiful cakes that require no waiting and very little soul-searching.
My mother had essentially presented me with the baking equivalent of a chain letter. Brilliant.
I was also a little concerned about the moral positioning of caring for something, knowing full well our endgame was always going to be to eat him. What if I formed an attachment to the little guy that prevented me from being able to enjoy the ‘cakes of my labour’?
But as my mum is so lovely, I decided to play along and babysit Lil Herman for a while, see what kind of a cake he grew up into, and then battle my attachment issues as and when they arose.
It soon became clear that mini-Herman was going to demand a lot of attention. Once in the car, I unfolded the A4 paper of instructions my mum had given to us, as the little fella sat on my knee taking in the sights. ‘Okay,’ I read aloud.
‘Day 1. Congratulations on your new friend Herman – enjoy!’ We patted ourselves on the back for not messing up so far. The doughy dude was nestled very amiably on my lap and he seemed to feel at home with us. Maybe it was the start of a beautiful friendship?
Day 2, we should stir him carefully.
Day 3, we were encouraged to talk to him and keep him company to stimulate his growth. Seriously.
By Day 4, we were informed, he would be hungry so we would need to ‘feed’ him a little milk, caster sugar and 250g of sifted self-raising flour. After that he would sleep for several days, but we should still ‘stir’ him from sleep occasionally (see what I did there?) and chat to the sleepy little mite so he would know how loved he was. Oh how I wish I were making this up.
Finally, on Day 10, we would feed him his ‘last meal’ of flour, eggs, caster sugar, oil and cinnamon powder. At this point we would betray the poor soulless sod, morphing mercilessly from ‘loving carers’ to ‘blood-thirsty monsters’ who would chop him up on the plate that had become his home and proceed to gobble him up. Perhaps washing him down with a nice cappuccino. Lovely.
After a short car drive, we carried ‘Lil H’ carefully into his new home and laid his plate gently on our kitchen work surface. Somewhere shaded from the sun but where he’d also have a nice view of the garden outside.
And there he sat. For two weeks. Untouched. Un-talked to. Unloved by the world that had so cruelly baked him to life, only to dash his destiny.
Until we eventually – and guiltily – threw him in the bin because the yeast smell was starting to stink out the whole house. It was no way for a cake to go. Especially our little Herminator.
So, to bring me back to the point where this all began: is lying always a bad thing?
Well you tell me. When my mum asked me how we’d got on with ‘Herman,’ I assured her he hadn’t been a moments trouble and was absolutely delicious, while Adam convincingly nodded his agreement next to me.
Would you have done differently?