“Feeding Herman”

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My husband love sourdough bread, so I was intrigued by a long article in the food section of yesterday’s New York Times. A lovely photo of two loaves of sourdough was followed by step by step instructions to make it. The instructions went on over three pages. At this point I realized I could have walked to our Whole Foods Market (not a short walk), bought his favorite bread, brought it home and he could have consumed it during the time it would have taken to make their “simple” loaf. So there will be no sourdough baked here any time soon.

I was reminded, however, of Herman, a gift that circulated endlessly among my friends in the 1970’s. Herman was a starter contained in a glass jar with instructions on his feeding and use. Containing just milk, flour, sugar and water, Herman grew with each feeding, producing the concoction pictured above. I used it to make coffee cake and was then supposed to pass on the extra to a friend.

What did zucchini and Herman have in common in rural Oregon in the 1970’s? Everyone I knew had too many of each. Of course it was horrifying to throw out either, so I am sure that we found ways to bake zucchini bread with the starter Herman. And we kept asking each other if anyone needed Herman or zucchini. No one ever did.

Herman must have eventually died. I don’t remember any ceremony for him. But I do remember the initial joy of receiving him as a gift followed by the nagging sense that I needed to both feed him on schedule and find a friend to gift with the excess.

Does anyone else remember those days?

23 thoughts on ““Feeding Herman”

  1. I have never heard of such a ‘starter’, and I cannot stand zucchini. (We call them courgettes over here)
    As far as I am concerned, good bread is easily obtained (including sourdough) from the local bakery, or the supermarket fresh bread department. It seems we are on the same page, Elizabeth. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. I did that once, baking a herman sourdough. A neighbor gave us a bowl of it and then I later passed it to some of my officemates. I don’t normally bake breads but I sometimes bake cookies. I have tried baking zucchini bread too. Zucchini here costs a lot.

  3. I had a sourdough starter and made all the bread we ate for several years. When we moved to England, I carried the starter in a baby bottle. Try that today!!! I was too busy driving the girls to school and running after a toddler to bake bread. A few weeks ago, grandson Nathaniel gave me another starter. I baked biscuits with it and should use it again soon.

        1. A student from my English class gave me a milk goat when we lived in the country. We actually used the old outhouse for her housing at night and tied her on a rope and pulley during the day. Darla the goat.

  4. Hi Elizabeth,
    Not sure what is happening but I commented here too about here in Australia we call it Friendship cake but my comment isn’t showing here either.
    I had wondered why I hadn’t heard from you, as you are faithful to reply. 😀
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

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