Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I will not ever be "Baking Off" by Sam

It's the same every year when that season rolls round - you know the one.

"Don't you watch it? I would have thought you'd be entering!"

No and NO. I enjoy baking as a creative activity. I wouldn't if I were being filmed and standing in front of judges.

Perhaps my dyslexic childhood is at the root of this. The only competition I ever won in school was one for having a nice smile. Usually, competitions were entered in a grim spirit of I-know-I-won't-win, I'll-be-last-again, but they're-making-me-play kind of wartime grit - one must soldier on*.

Hobbies are for fun. I don't go to them to be judged. I bake in the sure knowledge that as long as I put in butter, sugar, flour and eggs, that whatever I make - as long as I don't absolutely burn it - will be tasty. Under-baking things is a pardonable sin: you can put it back in the oven to fix that. Things I make may have a soggy bottom. Perhaps my cake'll be lopsided.  It may not rise. Icing sugar is a great help to the mis-shaped cake, and lest we forget: this is HOME-MADE.  Imperfection is a sign of authenticity. I expect that the friends and family I feed my cooking to will go "Cor! Thanks!" in the manner of Enid Blyton characters.

GBBO and its ilk, to me, act to take yet another area of human endeavor and apply a lens of perfectionism to magnify flaws. WHY? Average people suddenly decide it'd be fun to jump over crazy technical hurdles in the name of gaining five minutes of fame. It's not my idea of entertainment, no matter how nice Mel, Sue, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood** are.

The other thing I despise about the show is the aura of kitsch "Kath Kidson" everything baking has been cloaked in as part of the show branding and thus in cookware shops up & down the land. I'm sure this series is why, in recent years, I've received a plethora of china bake wear from family and friends. Hand-painted polka-dot ceramic tablespoon measures are all well and good, but I know damn nicely I'll break them on the first outing. I have kept my stalwart plastic companions and passed on the ceramic variants. The single use pastel-covered cupcake boxes are still in their packaging: I think they're above the microwave. I gave most of the biscuit cutters to my sister, her kids may get a kick out of high-heeled shoe cookies?

I even received a "GBBO Decorating Masterclass" book as a gift (I think that one was December 2013).
Perhaps someone has the time and patience to make a 'four and twenty blackbirds' themed cake, but it's not me. The book is on a friends' shelf now - and whilst I'm sure it looks good, I highly doubt it's the book she turns to for a last minute birthday cake (let's be honest - this is the type we usually make).

I'm happy to applaud GBBO for bringing baking back into people' front rooms, but I don't think that the technical challenges they present are inspiring for the average home cook. They're a sugar-turret iced-castle dream, one for women (or men) who want to be grown-up princesses, living in aprons, singing as they bake, churning out home-made cakes which can compete with Harrods.

I have never seen a full episode of GBBO. I know I'm being harsh. I know perfectly nice, clever people who enjoy the show and perhaps even aspire to be on it. That's fine. Just don't make me watch it. It's like seeing my favorite childhood story turned into a three-hour opera, sung in Italian.

And lastly, a plea: please, whoever you are and whenever you read this: don't buy me any more silicone muffin cases. Ever.

*If I were a religious woman, I'd praise the lord daily that I will never, ever have to go through another day as a primary school pupil.

**I know that's not his real surname. With his fake tan and baking superstar tours, it seems apt