Written By: Eleanor Pratt
Every episode of the hit TV series “The Great British Bake Off” begins with idyllic scenes of the English countryside. As clips roll of beautiful green hills, songbirds flitting from tree to tree, and sheep grazing in nearby pastures, a calm voice explains the theme of the week and what the audience can expect to see in a particular episode. This introduction is an excellent example of the overall tone of the series, and one can almost feel the stress of the day fading away as they settle in to watch.
Beginning in 2010, “The Great British Bake Off” has become an international hit series over the years. The show follows amatuer British bakers who must create new delicious baked goods each week to impress the two judges. Each week features a new theme, such as bread week, cake week or chocolate week. The bakers compete in three separate challenges over the course of the week, beginning with a signature bake, then moving on to a technical bake and finally ending with the “show-stopper” bake. While the bakers are allowed to practice their signatures and show-stoppers before the episode, they do not know what the technical bake is until the day of.
To many, the show may sound like a typical cooking competition. A group of home cooks compete with one another, they are judged, and one person is sent home each week. However, once viewers begin watching, it becomes clear how different “The Great British Bake Off” is to other competition shows and how it can alleviate some of the stress from everyday life.
Bakers are not competing for a huge cash prize or a lucrative cookbook deal, but instead for a simple cake-stand and a nice bouquet of flowers. It is very clear that each person on the show just loves to bake, and that they are on the show simply to enjoy themselves. This is a refreshing change from American cooking competitions, which are often centered around the large amount of money one can gain from winning. Viewers and bakers alike can just enjoy the process, and do not have to worry about losing too much if something goes horribly wrong.
Contestants on “Bake Off” contribute heavily to the calming nature of the show. The bakers are unfailingly polite and kind to one another, which again sets the show apart from other, more cut-throat competitions. In almost every episode, the bakers will help each other with their bakes if someone is running behind or struggling. Ingredients are shared, advice is offered, and friendly chat is expected while they wait for their creations to finish baking. After a hard day, it is lovely to sit back and watch people bake delicious food and be genuinely kind to one another, even though they are competing.
Because the contestants are usually all legitimately nice people, viewers are put in the strange position of rooting for everyone. While viewers might have a slight favorite, they grow to care for all of the contestants and really do not care who wins in the end. There are so many interesting bakes being made and the contestants are all trying their hardest, which makes focusing on one person just impossible. There is little to no stress of hoping and praying each week that the viewer’s very favorite will go through to the next round, because they are all the favorite in one way or another.
In times where human decency and genuine kindness seem to be missing from many parts of our lives, “The Great British Bake Off” can help escape the stressful reality of life for just a little while. The show’s emphasis on things like friendship, perseverance, and humor will make one feel warm and might restore some faith in humanity. In the end, maybe overly polite British people making ridiculous baking puns is exactly what the world needs right now to feel just a little less stressed.