So said my seventeen-year-old recently. Some day she might just accept it, and give me “Great British Bake Off” paraphernalia for my birthday like her sisters did a few weeks ago.
She said she’d watch the new season with me, but that has yet to materialize. Oh well. Maybe she’ll join me before the finale drops. Her and her sisters would learn about more than merely baking.
Being young ladies today, I would hope the first thing they pick up is a lesson in confidence, something series (“season,” in Brit-speak) 4 finalist Ruby Tandoh sadly, inexplicably seemed to lack.
Despite winning “Star Baker” (best overall for an episode) three times, a feat shared by only a handful of other GBBO contestants, she also seemed to shed more tears than any other.
She was always doubting herself, approaching judgments “looking forlorn,” as former judge Mary Berry once said to her. Always prefacing with “this is wrong, that’s off,” etc.
It’s one thing to hold yourself to high standards. It’s quite another to expect the worst without appearing to hope for the best. It almost defeats the purpose. Why continue on? The anxiety would seem unbearable.
A similar mentality weighed on four-time SB and series 10 finalist Steph Blackwell, whose mother implored her to “start believing in herself.” Being so cursed would have crushed the victor of her final, David Atherton.
He is the only series champion to never win SB. In fact, he went full Susan Lucci and came in second in the “Technical” (the only challenge unknown to bakers before each episode) five times before eventually winning.
Like many contenders over the show’s twelve-year run, he used humor to deal with continually falling short: “Second … again. I repel first.” “Finally got first place. Just eight tries.”
Laughing is a much more enjoyable way of dealing with stress than sadness, or anger. There’s enough of that on “Hell’s Kitchen.”
After all, baking like this is presumably an escape.
For series 9 baker Terry Hartill, it “filled that void” of “massive loss” after his wife died of cancer. In her tearful exit (many are), series 10 alumnus Priya O’Shea recalled how she was “just gonna do the things I enjoy” when she left her job as a marketing consultant. “You can’t go wrong.”
Still others simply want to see how they measure up against amateur bakers. As the show grew in popularity, those applicants got better and better. This led, perhaps unsurprisingly, to more plaudits.
For series’ 1-7, judge Paul Hollywood extended the coveted “Hollywood Handshake” for a mere eleven bakes. That was nearly matched in series 8 alone.
Not only were three given out in the “Signature” one week, but in one “Showstopper,” Hollywood had eventual finalist Steven Carter-Bailey take his place at the judging table due to his “ridiculous”ly good “coloured-bread sculpture.”
Then the dam burst.
Among the twelve handshakes scattered throughout series 9, an unprecedented two were handed out during the “Cake Week” SS. “I’m disappointed with myself,” Hollywood later quipped.
But as he indicated amidst this deluge, when the level of quality is “FAR better,” the praise is proportionate. After adjusting to the new reality, he “raise(d) the bar” for ensuing series’. Bakers would have to “push the boat out” farther.
This is all to the better, both in baking and in general.
We all benefit when a few in this field or that keep testing the limits of what’s possible. It’s how society progresses, how day-to-day life gets a little bit easier, while freeing up time for these additional pursuits.
For GBBO, those floodgates were arguably kicked open by a champion who declared she was “never ever gonna put boundaries on (herself) ever again.”
There’s a reason why Nadiya Hussain’s series 6, and its final, were two of the most highly rated, respectively, in the show’s history.
For one, Ian Cumming and Tamal Ray joined her to produce arguably the most flawless SS ever. “The best-tasting final we’ve ever had,” as proclaimed by Hollywood, has yet to be eclipsed.
But there was also a build-up, as Nadiya struggled early on.
While Cumming was racking up SBs (three straight), she was finishing at the back of the pack on Technicals. So surprised she seemed to finally win one in week 5, she waived her hand sheepishly to claim credit.
“My kids and my husband are going to be so proud. It’s weird because I’m never proud of myself.” And right she was.
After her daughter charmingly listed all the kinds of cakes she liked in the family snapshot of the finale, her husband oozed support and respect for her. It was eminently endearing.
When your spouse tells you how “amazing you are,” and how “proud” he is of you, the sky is the limit.
He backed it up almost immediately when they moved to the London area where she’s “(made) a career out of” it. She was even asked to make a birthday cake for Queen Elizabeth II.
The useful takeaways from this show are endless.
It’s not that I don’t watch other things. The girls usually scatter anyway when I put on Maiden or Metallica, or even “Ozark” or “Better Call Saul.” GBBO though, is my anchor show, when I’m winding down for the day or whatnot.
The purity of it, the honesty of the participants, the intense competition, the absence of manufactured drama … nothing compares to it.
There are many worse ways to kill time.