The Great British Bake Off 2014: Why does it matter?

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Last night we all prepared to crown the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2014 – the show that asked itself, how many innuendos can we possibly stuff into a family format on the BBC?

As a nation, millions of us awaited Paul Hollywood’s sexy eyes, anticipated the chic-ness of Mary Berry’s final blazer (she did not disappoint, with a pink and white floral number), and hoped that the ghost of Dirty Diana Beard would not be haunting Richard, Nancy and Luis on their path to baking glory.

But hold on. Why are we so obsessed with a show about ordinary people in something as ordinary as baking? There are countless far greater problems facing the world today, and yet the winner of Bake Off is pretty much guaranteed tomorrow’s headlines. And heaven knows #BinGate was the biggest scandal since the word was invented. We dramatize the happenings of what is essentially a competition at the village fete even more than the ridiculous pause-for-tension on XFactor. We cry, cheer and blog when our hero or villain is ejected from this nostalgic pantomime, completely forgetting everything that exists outside of GBBO.

There are so many reasons why we, as a nation, are gripped every Wednesday by the frantic creation of Victoria Sandwiches and the like. For one, the show embodies true, nostalgic Britishness – Mary Berry reminds us of our Grandmas; and this year Richard Burr has gone some way into crushing the rough, unrefined builder stereotype. However for me, the most important reason we have stayed tuned to GBBO is that it provides a form of escapism from the true dramas of the world.

In this sense, the final did not disappoint.

Having been built up all season as a favourite to take the title by winning Star Baker no less than 5 times, the pressure was on Richard to come out on top. Unfortunately, his Signature Bake pastries were less than stunning and his Technical Challenge was pronounced as ‘scrambled egg’ by Paul and Mary.

Nancy fared better in both rounds, although it appeared that Paul had taken quite a disturbing shine to her as he eyed her up from behind. Maybe he has moved on from ‘child-genius’, 17 year old Martha.

For the same tasks Luis had a mixed critique, but far more notable was the absence of innuendo when his Signature Bake was called ‘soggy’. It seemed that the final meant either Sue and Mel had finally started to take the competition seriously, or they were feeling the pressure to toe the line following recent criticism that the show was becoming too ‘smutty’.

Whatever the reason, the absence of jokes made the tension in the tent palpable. During the final Showstopper round of the series, the bakers each made a Pièce Montée – a kind of architectural centre piece. Both Richard and Nancy made colourful windmill cakes but ambitious graphic designer Luis, ever keen to bag his own TV cooking show, created a Village of Chocolate in homage to his hometown, Poynton.

The bakes were stunning. They all tasted fantastic. Paul looked unnaturally orange. And Mary and orange Paul were in ‘total agreement’ that Nancy should take home the title of Bake Off Champion 2014.

So now it’s all over and we must return to our real-life dramas, catch up on current affairs and look outside the tent in which the worst thing that can happen is ice cream melting or batter curdling. It is clear to see that The Great British Bake Off not only provides great entertainment on a weekday evening; it distracts us from the real, frightening, insurmountable problems facing Great Britain.

Nicola Dashfield

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