Life

Nuala McCann: Bake Off sees us settling down to watch others fail once again

Let's face it, this isn't a show about baking, it's a show about disasters waiting to happen. And, oh, those stupid double entendres – buns used to mean butterfly ones, not somebody's well-toned ass, and baps meant big floury ones, no boobs about it

Noel fielding, Sandi Toksvig, Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood of The Great British Bake Off

THE Bake Off is back... like the best of good rich food, it keeps repeating on you.

Me? I love it because a small street urchin of a sadist lurks close by and smirks as others wince. Oh, the pain when your filo pastry is pants.

I know she no longer does the show, but Mary Berry was probably my gateway drug into the heady world of baking. She doesn’t look a day over 80 and I have a very soft spot for her. She has merry eyes and likes a little tipple.

And if you ever want to succeed at cakes, do the Mary Berry all-in-one kind.

But any recipe for success includes a sympathetic husband. When it comes to home baking, mine comes into the kitchen, looks despairingly at every used pot and pan and sighs: “Could you not just buy that gingerbread round in the Co-Op.”

“You have made of me the Mozart assassiné of the baking world,” I tell him, then hand him the marigolds.

Now we just watch the show.

Of course Prue has replaced Mary and nobody can replace Mary, but we’re coping.

Farewell Mel and Sue and hello Noel Fielding – I love his wild outfits and I love his empathy – he really feels the pain of a soggy bottom.

Paul Hollywood’s twinkly blue eyes don’t do it for me... but there are a lot of people out there who’d nearly swoon at his macaroons.

The Bake-Off is go-to television as the evenings draw in and the TV schedules fill up with dark dreary crime dramas where everyone’s muttering Welsh or Scots Gaelic or Swedish and the bodies pile up.

The evenings are drawing in. The workers are back out at the chalk face. The dinner is on the table at 6pm and then we flick aimlessly between healthy programmes about the size of your waist, the weight of your drinks cabinet and the necessity of doing 10,000 steps a day.

Our mantra is ever: “Let’s start tomorrow.”

Then we forget about the poison of butter, Demerara sugar and double cream and we settle for the schadenfreude of watching others fail. Forget sky diving, the nail biting moments when contestants’ teetering towers of shortbread teeter and tumble have us glued to the screen.

Oh, the sheer hell of lying on the floor staring in through the dark glass of an oven door and willing your Victoria sponge to rise to the occasion.

Oh, the pain when it flops.

Let’s face it, this isn’t a show about baking, it’s a show about disasters waiting to happen.

And, oh, those stupid double entendres – buns used to mean butterfly ones and not somebody’s well-toned ass and baps meant big floury ones and no boobs about it.

Who can forget the ice cream drama with Iain from Northern Ireland and Diana? His baked Alaska was setting in the freezer. The show appeared to show Diana removing it, saying something about him having his own freezer.

We all froze in horror... except the Alaska. It melted and Iain had a meltdown and threw the mess in the bin in an episode known as Bingate. He was eliminated and Twitter went wild. There was outrage.

The Bake Off claimed the Alaska was only out of the freezer for 40 seconds. Then Diana got a true mauling on Twitter. She later quit because of illness.

Honestly, as someone said, this is a reality show about cakes.

But it’s dramas like these that keep us on the edges of our seats.

There was the time when somebody nearly chopped their finger off in a Magimix – oh, the blood, the blood – it was better than Macbeth.

I have learned so much from the Bake Off. I know the difference between a tart and a pudding. You would never have seen a pudding hanging about the Albert Clock of my youth.

Food was always central to my early family life. We were served up huge boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables and on Sunday mornings after Mass we worshipped at the altar of Marguerite Patten.

Off went the blasted Sunday hats held under our chins with elastic that nipped like hell, on went the pinnies and my mother left us to the joys of the big bowl, the wooden spoon and the cookbook.

The joys of producing a good upside-down pineapple pudding or a dozen scones.

The smell of baking wafting from the kitchen is the smell of joy.

Bring on Bake Off – I’ll have an extra large slice.

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