In which Emily encourages you to check out / revisit The Great British Baking Show to celebrate the beginning of spring.
It’s starting to feel like spring. Chicago’s dyed the river green, the weather forecast up here in the upper Midwest is showing rain instead of snow, and every time I go shopping I end up having a lengthy internal debate about whether or not I need to buy more jelly beans. (Answer: yes, jelly beans are a delicious but scarce commodity and thus need to be bought whenever they’re available.) Flowers are starting to pop up along my daily walk, and people have begun to deal with their Hamilton fandom by making peep-based dioramas of the show. (No seriously: it’s kind of the best.) What with the warmer weather, the flowers, and March-based cultural festivities, I’ve been in the mood for some spring-y pop culture.
And nothing, recently, has said springtime to me like The Great British Baking Show / Bake-Off (for those of us in the US, the show’s called the Baking Show, because, it seems, Pillsbury owns the term Bake-Off). So this week, we at TTLP want to encourage you to spend some time with the most adorably positive, happy, and spring-y reality competition show in existence. Even if you can’t yourself skip work to go make cakes in a field surrounded by sheep and flowers, you can at least watch nice British people do so.
1. It’s a cooking show that’s entirely about breads, and cakes, and pastries, and pies, and delicious things. This food is intensely aspirational.
2. And all of the bakers have to be amateurs. So it’s also aspirational in that you leave a binge-watch of GBBS completely convinced that if you had five hours free you could totally make your own croissants from scratch.
3. And they make gloriously gorgeous chocolatey breads and weird pancake cakes and fancy Swedish Princess Cakes, all of which look unbelievably delicious.
4. The contestants are the nicest people. They clap for each other when they do well and hug each other when they do poorly. And the talking-head interviews are all like “well, I’ll have to try harder next week.” Everyone seems kind and balanced and humble and friendly. It’s such a nurturing space!
5. Even the judges are kind. Paul and Mary will absolutely point out when your “bake” is off, but they’ll do it while also praising what you did well and acknowledging the difficulty of the task.
6. The contestants take criticism extremely well and provide models for how to take critique with grace and confidence. Charming older Scottish man Norman has difficulty making pies and cakes that are adventurous enough for the judges, but he’ll just keep trying.
7. Also, they’re all cooking in a huge pastel kitchen in a field surrounded by sheep and horses and flowers. The aesthetics of this show are so delightfully twee and just so happy-making. It’s totally pastoral, in that it presents a very romanticized vision of the English countryside that’s heavily predicated on nostalgia and a manufactured vision of the land, but it’s also so comforting.
8. And the hosts are just a delight. Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc are quite the double-act of smart, funny, nice ladies who wander around punning, using funny accents, amusing themselves, and tasting icing.
9. Also, did I mention just how aspirational and delicious all of the bakes look?? Also, awesome. Someone made a three-dimensional cookie dragon.
10. It’s a silly show, with its fair share of nostalgia, pastoral conceits, and weird editing (did we really need to watch a sheep roam around in the middle of a cooking show?). But it’s a kind-hearted, pretty, and happy-making show about good food, nice people, and — implicitly — the idea that Anyone Can Cook!