There are tears, gasps of horror, and faces contorted in displeasure. Words that we have never heard before and voices that sound completely unlike our own. When things really go sideways, there are splashes of destruction all over the place, and my daughter and I absolutely love watching it together. When it is a good day, there are congratulatory embraces and stars awarded and joyful phone calls to loved ones. Surely you must have guessed by now…we are massively into The Great British Bake Off!
In addition to being mostly free of anything inappropriate for kids (there is the rare curse word when someone’s work is going off the rails), I love that the show teaches my kids some wonderful truths about the world. Featuring a varied cast of characters, it is a snapshot of the diverse population of the United Kingdom, both men and women of all ages. Some of them discovered a love of baking when they were young and learning from a loved one, while others had begun a new endeavor after retirement or losing their spouse. They have wildly different accents and family backgrounds, giving us glimpses of their traditional cuisines in the short vignettes back in their hometowns. In the middle of enjoying this latest season on Netflix, I imagined how the whole world could take a few cues from GBBO…
Success is Not a Pie
While the show is obviously a competition, I have come to love the way the bakers still encourage and support one another. You will frequently see a baker that has made errors and is running out of time and their neighbor will swoop in to help them. They offer genuine praise when someone excels and offers kind condolences when their work is a disaster. The bakers seem to understand that they can only control the circumstances at their own work station and that worrying about anyone else is only a waste of their precious time. They see the immediate rewards of hard work and the disastrous result of cutting corners. Though there is, of course, one winner, they seem to have a positive outlook on the experience they have gained and the friendships made along the way. I hope my daughter will embrace the idea that success is not a pie with a limited number of pieces; one person’s triumph does not eliminate her opportunities to succeed as well.
Variety is the Spice of Life & GBBO
We have learned about Indian milk sweets, massive showstopper cake techniques, savory bread for a party, delicate icing and woven pastry…things that my kids might not see in my own kitchen if I tried for a hundred years! We have even learned a bunch of cooking terms and some funny British slang words too. (I found a great “GBBO translator” that can be a great source if you are new to the show!) It is also fascinating to see bakers put their own spin on a challenge with an Irish, Indian, Dutch, or French take. There are lovely displays and the occasional utter mess, giving a real jolt that these are still just people doing their best. You can see tons of recipes and beautiful photographs on the show’s website. More than just a wide array of foods, I love that my children see a variety of people and their families brought together to enjoy these simple pleasures. For the record, I will now be referring to Hot Pockets as “savory baps.”
It’s Okay to Seek Out Delight
In these times of constant division and animosity, I have found the soothing nature of the show to be a balm. To some, it might seem boring, a whole hour devoted to watching people make things that seem frivolous and unhealthy (in a gluten and sugar way). Personally, I find myself analyzing the way I choose to spend my time and energy more and more. Do I feel better or worse after I am on social media? Do the shows I consume have inspiring characters or am I just seeing the worst of behaviors? Would I want my family to learn from and act like the things I am supporting with my money and attention? GBBO is a wonderful example of how the world could behave if we wanted to, as well as simply embracing that it is worthy of our time to do simple things that bring us joy. There are endless ways that we can invest in ourselves and our loved ones, but baking is the one that speaks to my daughter’s heart. I hope to do more of it, even if our end results wouldn’t be worthy of a handshake from Paul Hollywood.
If you are a fan of the show, please tell us in the comments how it has inspired your love of baking or perhaps just *enjoying* lovely kitchen creations!