With a blanket over my legs, a cup of tea in hand, the fire on to the left of me and the TV to my right, I picked up the remote and switched onto my recording of the kickoff of the 2020 season of The Great British Bake Off. In truth, I don’t need the fuzzy blanket now, this show is my fleece heated throw. I’ve avoided social media for any spoilers and kept this moment for a time I needed it most. It has remained bookmarked for a moment when I desperately required calmness, hope and happiness. Those in the know possess the secret…Bake Off has the ability to transform everything, every part of your mood, every sad part of your day and every negative idea you may have of the world in this moment, in 2020.
I first discovered The Great British Bake Off in 2018, after it was added to Netflix in the USA. I know I was late to the game, but I do believe it came into my life as a bit of a belated blessing. I was home visiting my parents in the US and had come down with a 24 hour flu, high temperature and full on body aches. The only muscle in my body I could move was the one attached to my finger operating the TV remote. Opening Netflix, a prompt appeared on the screen for The Great British Bakeoff. Several seasons had been added to the lineup, all available to watch now. I clicked onto Season 1, Episode 1, just as my father was coming up to check and make sure I was still surviving. He sat down on the couch, asked me how I was holding up and was immediately drawn into the delightful British accents on TV. “What’s this?” he asked. My response, “don’t get too excited, not sure this is for you. It’s some British baking show that the whole of the UK is obsessed with. I thought I’d give it a go.” And then something magical happened.
Six hours later and we had officially sunk into the world of Bake Off. We were on the edge of our seats, experiencing triumph and pain with each and every contestant, as they win star baker or sink below the baking standards and are ultimately sent home. We held our breath as cakes rose and fell. We fist pumped the air as bakes came together and we covered our eyes as the contestants risked everything with tall creations and risky constructions. When Paul Hollywood offered his hand for a shake, our hearts exploded. Right there on the spot, we were overflowing with emotion and sporting a smile that would stretch past our ears, if it were physically possible.
I explained to my dad the different accents in the tent and talked about the places they were from as each and every baker had their life briefly detailed on screen. There were people from all walks of life underneath the large than life tent that was draped in bunting and set in the most idyllic of gardens tucked behind one of the UK’s great historic homes. I was instantly homesick for London, for the beautiful quilt of culture that my adopted home country represented and displayed so beautifully on screen.
We sat for two more days, watching season one and season two through until their finales. We were transfixed. Me, a 38 year old woman and my dad, a 72 year old man, finding common ground in a television show about people baking cakes. And, dear reader, that’s all they do. There is no twist to this. You are tuning in to watch a beautiful symphony of enthusiasts mixing ingredients to create fantastical bakes. And that is why it is absolute, pure genius. That’s why 9 million people tune in every week to watch it here in the UK.
The Great British Bake Off is a warm hug in a 2020 world. It is a show that whisks you away from present reality. It takes you to a place where sugar is king, where the oven makes or breaks you. It’s a bubble and, for one hour a week, it’s an escape. Maybe all we need to get through this dumpster fire of a year is a once a week escape, something to remind us of the simple pleasures in life, the goodness found in simply creating piles of sugary sweet confections.
The Great British Bake Off realised its place in the life and hearts of many as they have taken every step required to keep the show alive in the year of Covid 19. They’ve found a way to film safely, while showcasing very little difference to the viewer at home. We are told, as the show kicks off, that the cast and crew have agreed to self isolate to film the show over six weeks, and then we dive straight into normal Bake Off television. What a sweet relief. Hearing the pots and pans clanging once again, watching as flour and sugar fly about the tent and imagining the heavenly smells that must be leaking from the warmed ovens containing the nation’s treasured trifles, is just what the doctor ordered. And is there any man or woman alive that hasn’t developed a little crush on co-host Noel Fielding? His easy going nature is infectious. I have entire whatsapp groups overflowing with commentary on how Noel would be the ideal person to self isolate with. His calming nature transcends the television screen and is most definitely a key ingredient in making this show a liberation from current reality.
For those of you that are still holding off, claiming you aren’t bakers and therefore wouldn’t ever be interested in the show, let me just say this…
While my baking has increased since lockdown with recipes that have been incredible successes and others that have ended truly disastrously, this has had more to do with my need to eat each and every emotion, rather than inspiration from my obsession with Bake Off. I don’t watch it and turn around and grab a baking tray. I am a liability in the kitchen, truly.
I watch The Great British Bake Off to escape from the world, to escape from the news, from Covid, from the American Election. I escape. I fall into a world of fluffy buns and crisp cookies. And I feel like the world is a better place for that one hour. So yes, I do believe it’s a saving grace and one that could rescue us all. We’re just one coffee cake away from complete contentment. Unhand the Xanax and embrace Bake Off!
In the UK, you can watch The Great British Bake Off 2020 weekly on Channel 4, or on catch up (where you can watch every season, if you’re playing catch up).
In the USA, you can watch The Great British Bake Off on Netflix, where they currently have all seasons and are showing the new season weekly!