Bake Off: Why Women Aren’t Good Enough (Spoilers)

There’s always a lesson to learn during the final episode of the Great British Bake Off and this one came right at the end. The camera is focussed on a tearful, victorious Candice who just won herself gold with some tasty little pig sausage roles, moist chocolate cake and custard tarts. She’s got a bouquet of flowers in one hand and the random, glass medal thing in the other (oh, it’s a cake plate) and this is what she says: “I did it, I am good, I’m good enough.” And it’s funny because when I watched Candice ace it through each round of the final I never doubted whether or not she was good enough, for me, she was always more than good enough. But this isn’t the first time I’ve heard a woman doubt her self belief and I wonder if something’s going on?

The two female finalists got a lot of flack over the past few weeks. Candice was disliked for her varying shades of lipstick and her pout. She was disliked for her accent and her choice of clothes. Meanwhile, Jane was disliked for being old (she’s only 61!), for her hair and for her supposed headmistress sternness. All of these things are, of course, bullshit and we should have been cheering both them on for being such star bakers. Yet patriarchy is as patriarchy does and in a world where women are constantly made to feel inferior to men they have far more work to do to get to the top. But get to the top they did without a soggy bottom in sight.

Now, I don’t want to be accused of too many generalisations but it saddens me when people don’t think they’re good enough because often that attitude is the product of a misdirected over-ambition and an inability to see the good in oneself. Can’t we all just give ourselves a break and allow ourselves to be good enough? However, as our history is one of so much misogyny it’s often women who have even less self-belief. Anecdotally, I have never heard a successful man say he suffers from the imposter syndrome (i.e. the belief that you shouldn’t be where you are professionally and you’re just a sham waiting to be uncovered) but I have heard many successful women say it. Goddammit. Success is for all of us and we should be free to enjoy it without guilt (providing it’s the right sort of success, i.e. baking great cakes, not earning loads whilst crashing national economies).

So I hope winning the Bake Off helps Candice realise just what a blooming brilliant baker and person she is but I hope she knows she’s these things anyway, even if she hadn’t won. For me, the final showed that woman absolutely rock as lovely, earnest Andrew was forced to cash in on his male privilege and step aside. And what’s even better is that Candice and Jane, who shared a great rivalry throughout the show (for which they got much online flack), are now off on a baking road trip together. There are a lot of stereotypes out there that suggest women can’t be friends because they’re always bitching about each other and competing for men (or star baker) but, once again, the women of Bake Off showed us what a load of unbaked, bullshit that is. And here’s a funny penis cake.

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Owen Jones, Will You Marry Me?

It’s the Conservative Party conference and what should any leader of the opposition be doing? Absolutely destroying it with zinging one liners and put downs then explaining how their progressive and innovative alternative is what this country needs to transcend the woeful contradictions of capitalism, deal with climate change, end inequality and ensure people can get back to the important task of being happy and watching Bake Off. So, what’s Jeremy Corbyn doing? Tweeting about the Labour film festival. Facepalm.

Fortunately, someone whose a fan of Labour lives in the 21st century and understands how social media works and that’s everyone’s favourite cherubic Guardian (or is it guardian?) journalist, Owen Jones. “Labour need clear, crisp, repeated messages on everything from the Government’s retreat on economic policy to Brexit chaos – and fast” he said yesterday, whilst actually at the conference. He was going around with his cheeky-chappy grin and interviewing Tories, helping the rest of us see that these people are human even if many of their policies are inhumane. “The Tories’ harsh Brexit puts your job at risk – only a Labour Brexit will protect your job. Labour’s line should be something like that.” Say it like you see it Jones and thank god someone is. As for Corybyn, “. is coming to the North West for the 1st time. Find out about the great films they’re showing here → .” Ok, so the current Chancellor is basically backtracking on a load of Tory economic policies and resigning this country to another ‘lost decade’ and you have nothing to say about it? The Tories are practically handing you their own heads on silver platters and you’re too busy tweeting about a film festival!? You can tweet about more than one thing!

If, like me, you find yourself frustrated with some of Corbyn’s behaviour but realise he has just been re-elected as head of the opposition then I reckon now is the time to call on him to step up. Yes, he has many great principles and ideals but that’s not enough. They must be used as beacons to guide a very practical and pragmatic politics for right now. The situation is dire and we aren’t going to get any form of socialist utopia anytime soon. Behavioural and value change across a nation will take at least a generation, this is barely the start. So, Jeremy, get tweeting, get zinging and call out the many failures of the Tories. Please make good on your re-election and prove to us you really can be the next Prime Minister because Britain is scared of change and we need to have confidence in the one who professes to be the harbinger of said change. And, Owen, marry me?

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Owen Jones grins at Tories at last year’s conference

Bake Off: Climate Change Week

Week 7 of the Great British Bake Off and things got environmental. As comedian Mel Giedroyc explained at the start of the show it was a Bake Off first, Botanical Week: “We wanted to highlight the plight of nature as bee populations collapse, sea levels rise and numerous species become extinct due to human’s inability to live peaceably on the planet. We felt it was important to stand up for Gaia.” So those bakers got baking with flowers, herbs, leaves and other things that grow out the ground (y’know, like most things)

Round 1 was a classic: lemon meringue pie. Except they wanted a further citrus twist. “This might appear a controversial decision,” explained celebrity chef and national treasure Mary Berry, “But the reason we wanted them to use a wider panoply of citrus fruits such as grapefruits, oranges and clementines was to raise awareness of global warming. Just this summer Gravesend recorded a temperature of 34.4C, that’s the hottest day of the year since 1911, incidentally the year I was born. Ironically this will make Britain’s climate more amendable to the growing of citrus fruits and whilst I love a good lemon meringue pie I don’t want it to come at the price of numerous small island states going underwater, the Arctic melting and more hurricanes. I get that this is too little too late but if Bake Off can’t be used to make important political statements then what’s the fucking point.”

Round 2 was fougasse, a type of bread typically associated with Provence in France. Judge Paul Hollywood chose this one: “I don’t actually believe in climate change and care little for the environment but a fougasse should be made in the shape of a leaf. So it was my token nod towards nature but who really gives a shit about nature. I mean, I’m off to Channel 4, I don’t have values, I just want cash. Sure if we each did our bit and consumed less, recycled more, became more politically active and challenged power then things might change. But that sounds like too much effort.” Swiftly onto Round 3 where the bakers had to make 3+ tiered cakes covered in floral patterns. It was contestant Candice who did a 4 tiered cake with each one representing a different season. She purposefully misaligned them as she piled them one on top of the other to ensure they looked, in her words, “higgledy-piggledy, like the seasons.” She went on to explain: “Because climate change has ransacked seasons around the world. They used to be predictable and delineated but now summers are cold, winters are even colder and there are heat waves in October. Basically the seasons are screwed and I wanted to convey that with my cake.”

And so the episode drew to a close and whilst it was lovely guy Rav who got booted off the last word went to Andrew. The adorable Welsh perfectionist, sitting on a rustic stone step surrounded by trees and flowers, was reduced to tears: “These tears are partly for me and my insatiable hunger for affirmation from octogenarian Aga users but they’re also for nature. I mean, why do we treat her so badly, polluting the seas, trashing mountains and killing baby seals. If only Mary Berry ran the UN.” Next week Bake Off will be focussing on plight of the worker under capitalism because, as Berry says, “If we can give a toss about 12 randomers in a tent then of course we can care about the exploitation of labourers around the world.”

Bake Off: Our Damnation And Salvation

Spoilers ahead if you didn’t catch this week’s episode of Great British Bake Off – think Game of Thrones meets the Home Counties by way of the Hummingbird Bakery. And this week was a corker – broken eggs, soggy bottoms, tarts galore and Mary Berry even cracked a joke. However, two things really struck me, one concerns filo pastry and the other concerns our dearly departed Val.

Kinda half way through the programme Mel or Sue (the comedy commentators who keep the whole thing together) go off on a tangent to reveal a bit of the history of baking. This week was Baklava. Back in the 13th century Ottoman Empire the Sultan was getting a bit peckish, so his royal chefs invented filo pastry. It’s a tricky process that involves finely rolling numerous sheets of pastry, so fine that you can read a book through them (or a bottle of alcohol as contestant Jane did, ahem). The process required such skill that, back in the day, the number of sheets within the filo pastry was used as a signifier of wealth. Rich households would demand a minimum of 100 layers. Wait a second. Number of sheets in filo pastry as a sign of wealth. What the actual f*ck?! I mean, come on people, let’s get a grip. But it was then, as I watched Mel bite into a tasty morsel of pistachio filled Baklava, that I realised we’re doomed. Humans are actually doomed. We prioritise the number of layers in filo pastry over things like lessening hunger in the world, tackling climate change and redistributing wealth. And things haven’t changed that much since then except it’s less about filo pastry and more about number of yachts, houses and watches. The irony is that once a year the Sultan would host a great Baklava ceremony and the servants of his Empire would be given some of the stuff as a token of gratitude in return for their unending service. After that it was back to a life of gruelling slavery. Humans. We’re the worst.

As you can imagine I was in despair and then Val was outed from the Bake Off tent. She’d had a bad week but when the camera turned to her these were her parting words: “When you bake you always bake for a reason, you’re giving it to people, so you make it the best you can and you make it with love. And whenever I make anything I stir love into it, I knead love into it, so when I present it, it’s special. I’m not unhappy, I’ve had a great time with some great people and, phwoar, I didn’t expect it, I didn’t expect to ever get here, never mind be honoured.” And those words speak for themselves. What a woman and what an inspiration to us all – so positive, so grateful and just so darn nice. All the other characters (I mean contestants) spoke so highly of her positive personality and even judge Paul Hollywood had a good word for her. And what a world we might live in if we didn’t prioritise the number of layers in our filo pastry but prioritised love instead. It sounds cheesy but it tastes great.

Baked Goods And Wisdom

It’s nearly the final episode of Bake Off. Soon Mary Berry will be leaving our screens to find good flavour and soggy bottoms elsewhere, whilst Paul Hollywood will attempt some stand up in a grotty pub in East London (a safe distance away from the local cereal cafe). Much has happened in the tent this time round – we’ve had burnt biscuits, saggy souffles, sunken tennis court cakes (yes, tennis court cakes are a thing) but above all we’ve had wisdom, so much wisdom. I’ll share some of the tastier morsels here.

Take Nadiya for example, everyone’s star baker and tipped to win. When she started she just did not believe in herself. She would tremble as Paul and Mary came to pass judgement and make an assortment of brilliantly disturbed faces. Then she got star baker and she was ecstatic: “My kids are going to be really proud and my husband is going to be so proud. And it’s weird because I’m never proud of myself. But I’m actually really proud of myself.” How sad that someone so brilliant and talented never believed in themselves. Until she got a “lingering handshake” from Paul Hollywood that is. It’s testimony to Britain’s hard work, minimal praise culture that so many people grow up feeling worthless and undervalued, struggling to believe even in themselves. I’m just glad a glazed, chocolate peacock made all the difference for Nadiya.

Then there’s Flora. Week in, week out she’d go all out to impress the judges. She’d add praline flourishes and macaroon embellishments but time and time again she’d let herself down on the actual baking (it’s Great British Bake Off, not Great British Show Off). Mary would politely tell her to just do some good baking and Paul would reiterate that less politely. In her last week of the competition Flora did say, “Well maybe it won’t be perfect this time.” This was big. For a perfectionist like Flora to settle for good enough must have been very difficult. It didn’t quite work though as she attempted to over-achieve on her final showstopper but as Mary said “it lacks flavour.”

Finally, we also learn…well, to be precise Quentin Letts learns, that people who are not white and whose families may have migrated to Britain a little after the rest of our Viking relatives, are actually humans. Letts wrote a long, ranty piece in some tired, right-wing newspaper about how overly ‘right on’ Bake Off was this year – it was too diverse, it wasn’t white enough, there weren’t enough middle-aged ‘mums next door types’ (because all mums next door are white and middle-aged of course). It was political correctness gone mad because the dreaded BBC with their ‘equality agenda’ had picked people based on their ethnicity, religion, sexuality or some other feature ripe for discrimination rather than their actual baking talent. Well, I think the quality of the baking speaks for itself as does the brilliant diversity of the three finalists. Chew on that cardamom and ‘other exotic, foreign spice’ infused iced bun Quentin Letts.

So to sum up the wisdom of the Bake Off tent: please believe in yourself, good enough really is good enough, striving for perfection probably won’t make you happy in the long-term, don’t be a bigot and, please, dry your bottom. Now for that heart warming intro music…