Hunger is the best cook and food the best doctor.

Being English, I adore food. It is as simple as that. I am tempted to finish this week’s blog there as it needs no further explanation. However, I feel contractually obliged, so I must continue.

I don’t really mind what food as there is a meal for every occasion. There is nothing better than cheese and onion on toast when getting in from a cold, wet and dark winters day show jumping. In the same way, a summers evening is made by a simple steak, salad and a few wedges. I think it is something unique about the British, that we shape every event or occasion we have by food. Spending two or three days with our nearest and dearest at Christmas is just too much for the vast majority of us to take, so we fill our time eating a year’s supply of meat, potatoes and chocolates. By filling our time eating all that glorious food, we barely have time to argue with the family before falling asleep in front of the Eastenders Christmas special.

It is with this love of food that I sit in front of the television, eating any old ready meal, watching Masterchef with such excitement. But of late, the BBC has come up with a new creation, which is just awe-inspiring on so many levels. The Great British Bake Off is a throwback to years gone by, where the most quintessentially middle class people take baking as seriously as you or I would consider world peace or poverty. Now I adore bread, cakes and all manner of baked delights, but I could never take it as seriously as any of these contestants. This is the reality show for the yummy mummy to get excited about. It is not the cooking that you or I would manage; oh no, there is an invention test, which requires them to create something wacky and wonderful, such as violet petal macaroons or choux buns with popping candy in. The next test is perhaps the most terrifying; the contestants are given the ingredients for a classic recipe, but they do not have the actual recipe. Over the past few weeks, they have had to bake all sorts of wonders such as cottage loaves and Cornish pasties sans instruction. Despite this hindrance, there have been no catastrophic cock ups. Of course, there have been the nail biting moments where pastry is soft, scones haven’t browned or bread hasn’t risen, but they have always completed an acceptable finished product, which is more than I would manage.

The contestants have all been wonderfully varied considering the subject matter. I was quite shocked by the amount of men that started the competition; whilst men generally make excellent cooks, I know that it’s a stereotype, but I don’t imagine them on the baking side of things. Gordon Ramsey isn’t known for his delicate touch in pastry making! Right back at the beginning, we had a Welsh bus driver whose cakes were the talk of the depot and true to his Welsh heritage he was pretty emotional about leaving. Every contestant has had their own special little quirk, which makes them so interesting. The most amusing of these was Jas, who had the most amazing Black Country accent, which seemed to disappear and then come flooding back in waves across the sentence.

It is not just the glorious way the contestants get so het up about bread or pastries that makes this programme; it is the timely interjections from Mel and Sue. Hosted by Mel Giedroyc (yes, that’s easier to type than it is to say) and Sue Perkins, this programme brings the southern, female, humorous and entertaining equivalent of Ant and Dec back together on our screens once more. Obviously, they are not comparable to Ant and Dec; Mel and Sue made great lunchtime telly back in the nineties and this is such a hilarious place to see them. Mel gets almost as emotionally involved as the contestants themselves and she looks quite bleary eyed as she tells them who has been eliminated each week. Whilst they are cooking, Mel and Sue float around chatting to the contestants with seemingly little purpose, often accidentally eating their ingredients or asking to try it just as the contestant has discovered they haven’t actually put the 5 beautifully separated eggs into the scones.

Apparently this programme has split the baking society into those who WI and those who don’t. The WI (bakers extraordinaire) has been up in arms about some of Paul Hollywood’s comments and decisions. The lovely Mary Berry seems to have avoiding the controversies, which pleases me for two reasons. Firstly, her salad dressings are the best salad dressings in the entire world. Secondly, I used to serve her regularly at Tesco on a Wednesday evening and she was quite lovely.

But for a naive weekend baker, oblivious to this controversy, the Great British Bakeoff is such a delightful programme. It seems to hark back to a bygone era. Maybe I’m back in my dream world hoping that lovely Middle England could be so lovely once again, but it’s true. They have gone to some beautiful places around the country and baked all manner of goodies that I would love to try. What’s to dislike about that?
Now to the important part; who do I think will win? Ruth, hands down. She has been the strongest from the very beginning, with Edd and Miranda as strong competition. I would say that Edd could pull it out of the bag, but I’ve seen the teaser for next week’s final; he is bent over with a towel to his face having apparently stabbed himself, which I think might reduce his chances a little. Only time will tell, but next Tuesday I will be in the deepest, darkest depths of Devon so there is a chance I will not see the final until Thursday. As long as no one tells me who wins in the meantime, I will enjoy the final when I see it.

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