What is it about baking?
What is it about baking? It has been my ‘go to’ activity when stressed for decades. I first realised this about 15 years ago. We were on our way to Bray, I was driving, the kids who were small, were in the back and we were involved in a kind of pile up on the N11. It wasn’t very serious but it was scary. Ambulance men peering in at us through the windows, talking to each of my girls to make sure we were all OK. I was still shaking when we got home. But I went straight into the kitchen and began to bake. I remember my husband being somewhere between appalled and fascinated by my reaction. But when I can’t make sense of the world, I bake.
The magic of turning a bowl of slop into a feathery, fabulous confection is something perhaps deeply embedded in our female bones. It carries with it comfort from our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers. It can bring you right back to your childhood kitchen as you become enveloped in the sweet aroma of cake rising in the oven. And then of course there’s the delicious anticipation of tasting the results of your labours.
Baking also got me into a fair amount of trouble over the years. I became what I ate until I resembled a large cake myself and gave myself diabetes. So, my baking days are largely over, reserved now for state occasions and bonfire nights only. I have replaced regular baking with gin… but sin scéal eile.
However, the next best thing to actual baking is watching the sublime, gentle, Great British Bake Off which finally made a welcome return to our screens recently. Of course, I was always a fan of the Bake Off but this year its return is akin to seeing a hunky fireman coming to rescue you from a burning building. The relief is almost overwhelming. An hour of guileless entertainment that (and a huge thank you to the producers for this) is completely Covid-19 free.
We live in interesting times and that’s for sure. Well, I say interesting because I am trying to remain as positive as possible. But you know and I know, that what I actually mean is stressful. Pandemic life is stressful. We are all getting tired and fed up. It’s worrying and it’s hard. Very hard. All of which is why The Great British Bake Off shines forth like a beacon of light and fluffiness in a sea of our stewed and rancid emotions.
So, it was with great anticipation that I snuggled down on the sofa to begin to get to know this year’s crop of participants. As usual they were a motley crew of quirky but essentially nice people. People for whom the fact that this is a competition is a by the way. They help each other, advise each other, congratulate each other and urge each other on.
This year when nothing is as it was, the Bake Off remains unchanged. Contestants hug and are close to each other. There are no Perspex screens, no oceans of sanitizer, no masks. No mention of corona virus at all except to explain how they had achieved this miracle by the contestants having moved into the Bake Off village for the duration of filming. Oh glory alleluia. It’s like a peek into a nirvana that for now we can only dream of. And all in a pastel hued tent in the middle of the glorious countryside.
The Bake Off is as indulgent as a good Victoria Sponge. The jokes are gently seasoned with some double entendre to add a hint of spice. There is no shouting and bawling. No making a holy show of someone when their best efforts turn out disastrously. And best of all, no tragic back stories designed to make the audience cry.
Anyway, I know that none of this is an accident. It’s all part of the brand but it’s a brand that I not only like but this year feel I need as part of my personal armoury to keep me sane in this mad world in which we find ourselves.
The hour spent watching nice people try to bake, sometimes very ambitious confections is a salve to our overheated heads. And it’s great that they do the baking, so you don’t have to. Lessing the stress of our lives without adding the calories.