Last Wednesday morning I found myself hunched over my bag, blocking my ears in the middle of Leeds Student Medical Practice. Was I nervously awaiting the results of a chlamydia test or some other form of medical examination? No, I was in fact merely following the instructions of the cheery radio presenter to “cover your ears if you haven’t yet watched last night’s Bake Off.” Now, I’m sure that some of you more avid fans would argue that the fact that I hadn’t yet watched the episode meant that I didn’t deserve to remain in suspense but I was rather proud of myself for not spoiling the result. As I smugly sat there, surrounded by coughing and shifty eyed students, I reflected on my actions. Then the embarrassment kicked in; I care so much about this baking
programme that I was prepared to make a fool of myself in an environment that is frankly pretty awkward to start with.
Truth is, I am unashamedly obsessed with GBBO and I’m not the only one. The whole country seemed to be caught up in the drama of it all, with the final attracting over seven
million voters, more than the X-factor did last Saturday and almost double the Arsenal match that it had to compete with.
The cakes, the buns, the ‘white chocolate and orange peacock bread’ all seem to help us escape from our daily lives into a world of sugar and spice and all things nice, filling us with an odd kind of hope and conviction that we too will one day make a ‘Charlotte Royale’ that even Mary Berry would be proud of. In reality I know that I will never find four hours of free time to make a 30cm tall freestanding biscuit tower but wouldn’t it be nice if that was a possibility? At the end of the day most of us would prefer to be eating cake than doing anything really useful with our lives.
Sadly the sugary element of the show ends with the cake. I’ll admit to being guilty of the odd snide remark about the contestants but I’m frankly appalled by the backlash against the benign candidates who literally put their blood, sweat and tears into the show (and sometimes the cakes). In an article in The Guardian, Ruby Tandoh responded angrily to the trolls who cruelly said she was merely in the final because Paul Hollywood fancied her. She also criticised baseless attacks on her and the other female contestants for (gasp!) showing emotion. Whilst Ruby was branded weak for her self-deprecation, Kimberly was said to be arrogant for being pleased with herself, I wonder if men who acted in similar ways would have received such criticism.
When the Bake-Off gets promoted to BBC1 next year it would do us all some good to remember why we started watching it in the first place: the awful puns; tricky technical challenges; and the odd disaster. But, we all know the principal reason was getting to watch lots and lots of cake being made, which we will never get to eat.