Wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah. Food shows.
If you weren’t already aware, the greatest amateur baker on the internet is, and has been for some time, Sally from Bewitching Kitchen. She’s so good that she has the unparalleled honor of being one of the only two cooking blogs I list in my “Favorites” column. That places her just one rung below god and porn stars on any scale which measures talent.
Here’s how talented she is. When the producers of the mega-hit TV series “Great British Bake Off” decided to produce a holiday edition featuring Americans – called, strangely, “The Great American Bake Off: Holiday Edition” – Sally was chosen to be one of the competitors on the show. That’s right. Her reputation traveled all the way to the producers in England. That’s how talented she is.
Heartbreakingly, after COMING IN FIRST IN THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE on Day 1, Sally apparently piqued the ire of the cooking gods. Because on Day 3 they smote her with a devastating string of bizarre and completely unpredictable body blows, causing her to have a difficult day in the tent. We ALL have difficult days in the kitchen – yes, even me – but in that game show, one difficult day is all it takes. Sally was voted off the island at the end of Day 3.
I’ve known Sally since well before my WordPress days, back when we both used to post in a cooking forum over at Delphi. Even then she was a cut above the rest, including the professional chefs and bakers who frequented the place. And she’s only gotten better since. She’s one of the only cooks who’s recipes have literally made me gasp in astonishment. She’s also one of the only food bloggers who’s recipes I’ll make without hesitation, knowing they’ll be good before I even start.
So I know that Sally’s bad day in the kitchen that day in a tent in England with cameras rolling was just that. A bad day. One.
Of course, she’s beating herself up over it. As any of us would. If you watched the video she embedded in her Post Disaster Entry, it’s heartbreaking to hear her lament letting people down. How she must now be such a disappointment to them. (Of course I left her a note saying “ALL women are a disappointment to me eventually. If I was able to get over my mom breast feeding me through falsies, I can survive you messing up a batch of cookies.” I think it helped her.)
I want to say this specifically to Sally, but the rest of you can listen in too:
1. Sally, you got on the show because you were deemed to be one of the 12 best amateur bakers in America. Do you realize how many amateur bakers there are in America? At least 300! The moment you were chosen you were elevated so high above the rest of us that nothing you could do short of accidentally baking Paul Hollywood en croute could make us disappointed in you.
2. This is something I’ve voiced before, although not here in this hallowed web domain. To wit: TV cooking competitions suck.
Allow me to elaborate, using one specific aspect of the “Great British/American Bake Off” format: the Technical Challenge. As it happens, I’ve seen every episode of every season of “GBBO”. Not because I wanted to, but because Paul Hollywood has “dreamy blue eyes and a tight butt!“. So because of my wife, I am familiar with the idiotic abomination that the Technical Challenge is.
Here’s the gist: telling a bunch of bakers to produce a perfectly baked item that none of them have never even heard of, then giving them a recipe which omits critical information – like how deep to score a Cob bread – is not a recipe for determining who is the best baker. It’s a recipe for finding out who is the luckiest guesser. You could be one of the 11 CMPC‘s in the nation (a/o 2014), but if someone handed you a recipe that merely said “make an Inuit blubber sponge bread” and you’d never heard of such a thing, and they didn’t tell you that the second rise must only be for 5 minutes, you might get booted off the show before even that high school kid with the harelip who’d only started baking the week before.
This would be like someone asking me to read an ancient Sumerian Cuneiform tablet out loud and then telling me I’m a terrible announcer because I guessed the words wrong. My 31 years on the air means nothing to them.
These shows are conceived, written, produced, and edited, to be entertainment. Any resemblance to an actual test of skill would be purely accidental. You’re still the best, the smartest, the most preternaturally talented cook I know (other than me, of course). One batch of wonky Linzer cookies and an uncooperative gingerbread wall doesn’t change that. Hold your head proud. We weren’t good enough to even make it to that tent in the first place. How could we be disappointed in someone who did?
And if all that didn’t cheer you up, this should: you were the thinnest babe there.
Massive thanks and bellowing shout-outs to my longtime German freundin Regina!! Just about a year ago I was lamenting the poor heat retention qualities of the 100% Alpaca knit cap I’d purchased. Shortly afterwards Regina wrote me and offered to make a hat from scratch, one that was guaranteed to make me a real hot head. How could I resist? I said sure. Chapeau me, babe.
A month later this arrived via international post:
A handmade hat AND a jar of homemade hootch!
Let’s start with the hat. When Regina said it was gonna be handmade, she wasn’t kidding. She went out and found a green sheep, killed it, sheared it (somebody should tell her you can shear sheep without killing them first), spun some of the hair into yarn, turned some of the hair into felt, and waved a magic want over the pile and turned it all into a hat. That knob on top? It’s form fitting, not an aesthetic choice.
But most important of all…IT’S WARM! I torture tested it during a particularly brutal ice storm we suffered through last week, and to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, “Warm at last, warm at last. Thank god almighty, warm at last. Fuck you, winter.”
(How cold was it this week? When the temps dropped something like 80 degrees in an hour and ice sheets the size of Rhode Island starting hammering down on us, trees in the forest around Dangerhouse literally started exploding. This is a limb of our Japanese maple in the front yard, which suddenly split horizontally at about 140dB, turning it into some sort of anime alligator tree monster. AAAUUUGHHH!!
The hootch was a real surprise, and a very tasty surprise at that. R brewed it up herself from some exotic wild German berries that grow in supermarkets around Düsseldorf or Munich or Vulgaria or wherever she calls home. Who cares, the stuff was excellent. I was plowed at breakfast every day for a week.
Thanks Regina! I now know how you Felt.
Er, sorry for the extended absence. Something about court mandated community service with no contact with the internet or something. My thanks to everyone who left expressions of concern in my Notes section, and my white hot hatred to everyone who wrote me an email begging me to make the hiatus permanent. May you all be kicked off the island on the first day and be eaten by an anime alligator.