My wife has been marathoning the Great British Baking Show on Netflix.
It’s a cooking challenge show in which home bakers try to impress professional British pastry chefs. The contestants have to bake one of their at-home recipes, then bake some technical challenge given to them by the judges.
I find it to be borderline intolerable.
Half of what they are asked to bake is some sort of signature French pastry.
This is what I have learned about French baking, it is 99% Fuck You.
I think the center philosophy of French baking is pastry chefs trying to do something so unbelievably complicated that no-one else can do it. It’s French one-upsmanship.
To make this Frenchy French Poof Loaf you have to massage the butter into the flour by hand while cold for two hours. Then roll it to the thickness of a human air. Cover it with fruit and nut compost and then fold it 900 times until it is an accurate facsimile of the Arc de Triomphe. Then you bake it until turns the color of pure gold and can be poked with a bony English finger and not lose its shape. But you have 90 minutes to do it.
Being British, there is no such thing as a “good.” Every response by every judge is an inverted complement sandwich.
- Complaint about trivial aspect of the item – e.g., “the color is slightly off”.
- Mild complement – e.g., “the glaze is nice” (nice being the highest level of praise they can give).
- Soul crushing criticism – e.g., “other than the glaze, these are a dry and tasteless”.
I think the British conquered the world only because it was an attempt by a bunch of British young men to do something so epic that their disapproving British parents would say something positive without any qualifiers.
“Mom, I brought civilization to the dark continent, taught the savages Christian values, and opened diamond mines that have produced stones used in the Crown Jewels.”
“That’s nice… couldn’t you have founded gold and silver mines too.”
The icon of the show is food writer named Mary Berry.
This is her beaming with joy.
This is the most British woman I’ve ever seen. Her demeanor is a cold as the butter that has to be worked into her scones.
According to the internet she is married, but she still looks like a spinster to me. I just can’t image anybody wanting to consummate with that. Even 44 years ago, she looked like that.
So as I recover from a hacking chest cold, I am treated to hours on end of an old, sexless British woman crushing the hopes and dreams of homemakers to death, grinding down their egos like almonds for marzipan.