O! M!! G!!! It all kicked off on Bake Off last night. One contestant may (or may not) have cheated. One contestant threw his showstopper in the bin. And Mary Berry totally lost it and screamed “What the FUCK did he think he was playing at? This is BAKE OFF, for Chrissake! NOBODY disrespects Paul Hollywood and gets away with it!!” (No, of course she didn’t. This is Mary Berry, after all. What she actually said was “I think that’s sort of unacceptable.” But we all knew what she meant.)
And it all started so well. It was pudding week, and the technical challenge was self-saucing puddings, an innuendo so self-saucing that Mel and Sue more or less channelled Kenneth Williams to announce it. All proceeded according to plan, with Kate and Richard pulling ahead of the pack and Norman, who struggles with the concept of “dainty”, bringing up the rear. On to the technical challenge, Mary Berry’s tiramusu cake, and the usual shots of competitors reading the instructions open-mouthed and muttering “I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one” while Mary and Paul gloatingly discussed all the problematic issues to which they could fall prey. So far, so classic Bake Off.
And then! Bingate!! There hasn’t been so much excitement on Bake Off since Deborah accidentally used Howard’s much nicer custard during dessert week last year. Tricky little buggers, desserts. They apparently bring out the worst in people….. In hindsight, it was an accident waiting to happen. The contestants were called upon to produce a Baked Alaska showstopper, a challenge involving making their own ice-cream in temperatures of 25°. (I expect the remains of Mary’s tiramisu cake from the day before had been sent over to Darren Betts at the BBC weather centre with a small handwritten note “Thanks for the tip-off about the heatwave! Much love, Paul & Mary xoxoxo”)
To read the GBBO twitter feed in the aftermath of the Bincident, you would have thought that Diana, “ice-cream melting supervillain”, to quote her bio on the show’s Wikipedia page, had leapt on Iain, stuffed his Alaska down his throat and set light to his beard with a blow-torch. People were starting (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) campaigns to #bringbackiain, others seemed to genuinely believe that if they complained enough they would be able to change the outcome, having apparently failed to realise that the whole show is filmed months in advance. Perhaps the complainers think the Tardis is real and that the producers just needed a quick borrow off Peter Capaldi to be able to go back in time and fix things.
What apparently happened was that Diana deliberately took Iain’s ice-cream out of the freezer and left it to melt. According to Sue Perkins, the voice of reason, the ice-cream was in fact out for forty seconds, not long enough for it to melt even at a room temperature of 25°. She also pointed out that the show is EDITED, so we don’t know what really happened. Diana muttered at one point “What’s it doing in there? He’s got his own freezer”, and I definitely sense a back story there. Twitter was also all in a lather at the fact that Diana had neither fessed up nor apologised; in fact, she may have done both, but we just didn’t see it.
In any event, it was all immaterial; Iain wasn’t sacked for having runny ice-cream. Mary and Paul aren’t stupid, they knew it was hot and they made allowances. Chetna got praised for the quality of her sponge and her ice-cream, despite her Alaska having run off the plate in a heap. As they pointed out, they could have judged Iain’s sponge, and he was doing quite well up to then, so he certainly wouldn’t have been in danger of leaving. But he lost it, tipped the failed Alaska, sponge and all, into the bin, and stormed out
That sort of behaviour won’t wash with Mary Berry. This is a woman who spent three months in isolation hospital with polio at the age of thirteen, who lost a son killed in car crash at nineteen while she cooked a family Sunday lunch, who made a career in a male-dominated industry at a time when married women didn’t work, who took only five weeks off when each of her children was born for fear that someone else would be given her job if she didn’t go back. The words “not fair” are not even in her lexicon. She is fully aware that cooking is difficult, problems arise, things get harder for the contestants as time goes on, and those who get into the final are likely to be the subject of some fairly unpleasant media attention. If you can’t cut it when your ice-cream melts, you won’t be able to cut it at all. She was hugely sympathetic to Iain, but he had to go.
Norman, saved from almost certain departure by Iain’s misfortune, commented “I’m going to have to give myself a talking-to and really up my game.” He has been saying this since week one, so I don’t really have any great hopes that he will change. Norman is from a background where it’s considered dangerously decadent to have sugar rather than salt on your porridge. He is probably even now struggling with the concept of using butter rather than margarine in his bakes and wondering whether he really dare go that far.
Next week, tarts. Matron!!