What better place to start our reviews of movies of shows appropriate to pair with a warm cuppa than the mother of all cooking shows: known in the U.S. as the Great British Baking Show and in the U.K. as the Great British Bake-Off.
I am myself not much drawn to competitions in the kitchen, but this show was playing a few years ago before one of my Masterpiece Theater dramas (yes, I queue it up at least an hour early) (yes, it was Downton Abbey), and immediately there was something so very British about it that I was sucked in.
At first, it was the weird pastries, I’m not going to lie. Hitherto my experience with British baking was limited to the incomprehensible descriptions of meals from the Regency novels I had read. Cornish what? Meat pie? As in meat? It’s fascinating, I tell you. All of the little technical perfections that look incredibly unfinished to the American fondant enthusiast soon draw your admiration from the level of skill to the attention to detail. If the best way to learn a culture is through its food, there’s no better place to start.
There’s no question they’ve got the formula right, too. They meet in a tent on the lawn of an old British manor, for heaven’s sake. What am I supposed to do with that? The American eye will be truly stunned by the quaintness of contestants sharing a refrigerator too small for the average home, and by the tiny oven and workspace they are given. In America, I’m pretty sure every contestant would have their own tent, but it’s so quaint, I promise you, and the sparse supplies amp up the difficulty and competition (as is displayed by the great freezer drama of Season 5, a/k/a Bingate).
Yes, freezer drama is about as bad as it gets on the show. The contestants are almost without exception lovely, are from all different cultures and backgrounds, and have even been known to help one another. From the inimitable Paul Hollywood to the incomparable Mary Berry, the judges are just the kind of people that we want to repose our trust in. Their knowledge is astounding, their snobbery humourous (oops, I just spelled that with a U!), and their decisions generally just. In keeping with British tradition, there must be a fool to every drama, and our guides Mel and Sue have been cast perfectly. They’re funny, goofy, comforting, and I just want them to be my friends, okay?
A word of caution: the British seasons run differently from the American, causing some confusion as to which season is next. My advice: don’t worry too much about it: just watch whatever Netflix gives you. The order matters but little. Speaking of, apparently now the show will be produced by Netflix, with only Paul Hollywood returning, and a new Mary, Sue, and Mel. I haven’t yet seen the new series, but I’ve heard good things.
I’ve got to run – the kettle’s boiling!