Dearest Bake Off:
Our love affair admittedly hasn’t been very long. When I think of the fandoms that define me, I generally think of the ones that have been in my life for years, even decades. I certainly would never have guessed that a cooking competition show would have that kind of impact on me. But you’re more than just a cooking competition show. Much, much more.
It was barely six months ago that you first came into my life. I remember it vividly. I was bored and looking for something to watch on Netflix. And there you were, among my suggested titles: The Great British Baking Show. I’d heard of you in passing (though weren’t you called The Great British Bake Off?). I knew you combined two of my most ardent interests: baking and British television. But even so, how could I have known just how much you’d change my life?
The original plan was just to watch an episode or two before bed. But instead, I was up most of the night, binging the first season - enrapt by every biscuit and tart and pastry.
Every episode is an adventure. My mouth waters at the Signature Challenge, where contestants show off their strengths. I’m in awe of the Technical Challenge, where their skills are really tested by a recipe they’ve never seen before, sometimes of a food they’ve never heard of. And I’m dazzled by the Showstopper, where they turn food into works of art.
In truth, I’m more emotionally invested in the drama of a Bake Off episode than I am in most episodes of Game of Thrones. And the twists each challenge takes are enough to keep me on the edge of my seat.
“This pastry texture is already hanging in the balance… Is he really risking using chickpea flour instead of regular self-raising?”
“Oh no! The rolls didn’t rise properly in the oven, and now she has to redo them all with only half an hour left!”
“YOU MANIAC! You’ve overfilled AND underbaked your crust! You’re going to end up with a SOGGY BOTTOM!”
I find myself invested in your contestants, as well, far more than I usually am in a competition show. I think the reason is that, unlike most competitions, there’s no rivalry or animosity being fostered. Instead, the contestants help each other. They advise each other. They root for each other when they’re doing well and empathize when they’re doing poorly.
There’s no cutthroat quest to get to the top. Instead, there’s a group hug when someone is eliminated. The standard “I’m not here to make friends” doesn’t apply. They care about each other, which makes me care about them.
What I love most about you though, dear Bake Off, is that you inspire me in my own baking. I’ve always thought I was a pretty good baker, but you’ve given me a whole other level to aspire to. I can make cookies, but I’ve never thought to make tuiles. I can make a decent pie, but I’d never dreamed of making a bakewell tart. And I’ve never made anything even remotely resembling a Yorkshire pudding, but now I really want to.
But now you’ve opened me up to a world of new possibilities. That very first night I watched you, the only reason I turned off the TV was because I was overcome with a desire to make Victoria sponge cake at 3 a.m. And it’s been that way ever since. You’ve shown me new recipes and techniques I couldn’t have imagined and ignited a passion in my soul that makes me want to try them for myself. I’m not nearly good enough to hold my own in a Bake Off competition. But someday…
Though it’s only been a short time that we’ve been together, you occupy an important place in my life. I’ve even discovered a whole Bake Off fandom, filled with others who love you as much as I do. People who are enthralled by your drama and inspired by your recipes… People who know that, no matter how much Netflix and PBS call you The Great British Baking Show for American copyright reasons, you’ll always be the Great British Bake Off in our hearts. I’ve made new friends based on a mutual love of you and bonded with people in unexpected ways. In short, you’re everything a great fandom should be.
I could go on and on about what you mean to me as a show. Indeed, I haven’t even touched on the witty, silly banter between your hosts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. I haven’t talked about the sweet, grandmotherly demeanor of judge Mary Berry, or how the inherent smugness in judge Paul Hollywood is something you can’t help but love and hate at the same time. There’s so much more to say. But in the end, it all boils down to this: You are a show like no other. And you’ve meant more to me than I ever could have imagined.
Your humble baker,
Ready… Set… Bake!