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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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.

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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.

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