In honour of the sixth series of The Great British Bake Off being aired back home at the moment, I have bought Series 1-5 on iTunes and am rather over-indulging on the highs and lows of this very wonderful BBC series.
During one of my GBBO marathon sessions (don’t tell Gareth I think I watched an entire series in under 48 hours!) it dawned on me that life is very much like the baking of a signature bake. Bear with me here, I know after the above confession you will be assuming my mind is now addled by the obsessive pursuit of the “perfect bake” and the highly sought after ” original combination of flavours”, but I honestly think there is something to be learnt from the experiences of our harangued amateur bakers.
For any of you who don’t know what a ‘signature bake’ is (and frankly I’m saddened by your ignorance) this is the bake that each contestant in the GBBO is required to do at the beginning of each themed week. So if it were “Cake Week” then all the contestants must first bake a cake that they have done many times before, which in theory should mean they will wow the judges with something surprisingly professional for one that juggles their baking hobby along with a job in a bank, three children under the age of five and a post-graduate degree in Theology. I mean we’re expecting this:
You cringe with the poor wretches as nice-bit-of grandma, Mary Berry and master baker, Paul Hollywood save no punches on their critique of the pitiful lump of sugar and flour before them. You will hear phrases like, ‘This has NEVER happened before, I don’t understand what went wrong’, ‘I did 500 practice profiteroles this week so it’s so unfair they look like this’ or ‘I put the oven on ‘defrost’ by accident’. There will be tears and there’s even been, ‘I feel like I’ve let my family down’. I mean it’s heartbreaking, and it’s all over a macaron!
But don’t we know how they feel? Maybe not about a beloved ginger snap biscuit with a hint of lavender and a chilli chip, but isn’t it true we can quite regularly feel that “winter of discontent” ourselves? I know I do.
Like when you start a health kick and you’re going to “be” Gwyneth Paltrow. You’re planning this:
And of course there is that day in, day out test of your character, experience, intelligence, patience and willingness to put others ahead of yourself – parenting. Before the babies arrive and every day after, when you get up in the morning you imagine endless hours of sandcastle building on the beach, dancing and laughing with your children in the kitchen and afternoons playing poo-sticks with boats made out of long grass you collected together.
This does actually happen and you know that we’re going to take pictures and blog about these moments but what every parent will admit if given a sympathetic smile, is that most days you will turn to your significant other and say, ‘We’ve come to this play ground a thousand times before and they always love it, I don’t know why they won’t get out of the car?’ or ‘I just thought it would be fun if we all went for a walk together, what’s so terrible about that?’. And you witness the kind of misery from your children that make you question if you deserved to have them at all.
I think we can all put our hands up and say, at least four days out of seven, this is our favourite time of the day.
So what can we learn from a GBBO signature bake, apart from there’s nothing worse than a soggy bottom and you should never stir caramelising sugar?
That life is unpredictable. That you’re not in control of what happens a lot of the time. That even the simplest of tasks can be the toughest to do when you’re stressing out, so just relax. That life is not only like a box of chocolates; it’s also like a soufflé or a lemon meringue pie – never the same, unlikely to turn out exactly how you planned it but you must keep on trying, because it has every potential of getting so much better and there will be moments when you feel oh so proud of yourself.