The Great British Bake Off: let them bake cake

Alison Graham doesn't do baking, but she knows a recipe for happiness

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Alison Graham
Alison Graham
The Great British Bake Off: let them bake cake

Empires fall, seas froth and roil, yobs set fire to wheelie bins. But as long as there are delightful people who are prepared to take part in televised baking competitions, we will be all right.

I don’t even bake, but I love The Great British Bake Off (Tuesdays BBC2) for its sweet reassurance, its good manners and its charm.

DVDs of both series should be sent to the world’s brutes – Assad, Gaddafi, Mugabe – for their savage murderous breasts to be mollified by nice ladies and gentlemen in pinnies, making towers of cup cakes.

The Great British Bake Off tent with its pastel workstations is a world without evil. It is a good place. Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins are godsends as presenters, keeping it all sweetly light.

There is none of MasterChef’s pomp and bombast because Mel and Sue are not, oh great mercy, Torode and Wallace. They know that it’s Just a Game Show.

Neither is The Great British Bake Off invested with MasterChef’s fatuousness or its over-arching pretentions. So the air holes in your focaccia are too regular and even? Don’t worry, don’t react like a MasterChef contestant, as if the SAS are about to swing in through the skylights to smother you to death with your own rosemary. Contestants on The Great British Bake Off are calm and accepting.

Your tart had a soggy bottom (and Bake Off can get away with 1950s era gags like this)? Hey ho, no one got hurt. Not doing so well and facing the possibility of being expelled from the competition? “If I don’t deserve to stay, that’s fair enough,” said one contestant in the bread-baking challenge. “At the end of the day, it’s a competition.”

No wailing. No behaving like a character in a Eugene O’Neill play who’s just watched their pet hamster die of a laudanum overdose.
Everyone is on The Great British Bake Off to have a good time, that’s perfectly clear.

There are no “journeys”, the sky won’t fall in if you lose. Your family will still love you, your gas and electricity won’t be cut off, if your Victoria sponge is a bit saggy.

It’s just fun because it’s about BAKING CAKES. Not splitting the atom or greasing the Large Hadron Collider.

The blessed Mary Berry and groovy rock ’n’ roll bread-maker Paul Hollywood are the judges. Berry is the Cheryl Cole, pleasant and supportive while Hollywood, who has become something of a floury, laconic sex symbol, is Simon Cowell. No sugar-coating (ahem), no hugging, no tears. If your crusts are too hard, then he jolly well tells you.

If I miss an episode of The Great British Bake Off my world goes a little bit dark and I seek it out on iPlayer. Yes, I love it that much.

I would love to see The Great British Bake Off personnel travel to Afghanistan to make the world a slightly better place for the teams involved in the superb new documentary series, The Bomb Squad (Tuesday BBC1).

These men do an unthinkably dangerous job, locating and removing improvised explosive devices that kill more British soldiers than anything else that the Taliban has in its armoury. It’s unflinchingly hard, deadly dangerous work.

So I nearly wept at a sequence when the men received, with great gratitude, the mechanics of cheese and pickle sandwiches.

Who knew that these are so beloved of British troops AND are so rarely available to them?

The Bomb Squad team fall on a delivery of baguettes, a block of cheese and jars of pickle after months of fantasising. “Goddamn, I’ve missed cheese,” drools one soldier.

These men routinely risk death or horrific injries. Can someone please ensure they get cheese and pickle sandwiches. Every. Single. Day.

The Great British Bake Off is on BBC2 tonight at 8pm

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