12 October 2004

The special ingredient

Agnes Peabody, a much respected baker and, dare I say it, very good friend of mine, once made a little error in one of her recipes. Now I know she won't mind me telling you all this, but to make things easier I've changed her name. Besides, Agnes is a rather beautiful name anyway, and I'm sure she would be happy to have that as her pseudonym.

Mrs Peabody's cakes were renowned throughout the land for their taste. Everyone wanted a piece and, if there was ever a new recipe to be had, the shop would be packed for days on end.

One day she came across a new bright blue berry. It was so luscious and delicious, it would be perfect in a new cake. She got to work immediately, stirring and mixing all the ingredients.

Word spread fast, and as soon as the first batch was baked, it was sold out. That morning Agnes sold 43 special fruit cakes, and so took the afternoon off for a well-earned rest.

In that part of the world, everyone sits down at around four in the afternoon to eat cake and drink tea; it's a lovely little pasttime, and this day everyone was eating Mrs Peabody's new cake. Everyone found it to be delicious, but unfortunately, this was not to last.

Come five o'clock, everyone was starting to feel nauseous. Bellies were aching and groaning uncontrollably. No matter how unlikely it sounded, everyone realised it was Agnes's cake.

A crowd of 48 people staggered out into the street and lurched into the cake shop. It was amazing how many people could fit inside it, but fit in they did, every last one.

"What was in the cake?", they all moaned, clutching their stomachs while in excrutiating pain.

Agnes explained that she'd used a new berry, but before she could explain any further, the ground started to shake. Bellies were bulging, grumbling and bumbling, and suddenly everyone let out the most amazing ear-splitting burp you could ever imagine. The belch was so loud and potent that it blew off the roof, sending it flying into the sky and landing in a far-off cornfield. Everyone was blasted to the floor, but it was acknowledged that they all felt much better.

Agnes promised never to use that berry again, and the people agreed it was for the best. After all, she had to keep making cakes, but as long as she tried them first they were all quite happy to keep eating them.

It took Agnes a long while before she found out what that berry had been. The answer came when she visited a chemist's shop and found them on the counter. To relieve long-standing blockages and trapped wind, it said on a sign.

"Ha! Bongo Bam Bam Burp Berries," she said. "I should have known!"