We’re not the only household in the country on the edge of our seats now the final of the Great British Bake Off is looming like an ill-constructed choux pastry tower. There are at least eight million die-hard fans out there. But we are probably, definitely, certainly the keenest.
For our family, the Bake Off has taken on an added piquancy since I went sugar free a few months ago. While last year I would think nothing of knocking out a Victoria sponge in tribute to the contestants’ offerings (though I did steer well clear of wafer-thin strudel pastry, I never baked an Alaska and nor did I feel tempted to construct a shortbread recreation of the Colosseum) now I am trying to look at delights like Ian’s mirror-smooth chocolate and bay tart in a purely theoretical way.
The rest of the family are still nibbling away at sugar, mostly behind closed doors when they think I’m not looking (but of course I am). I am doing my best to stay strong, and when I’ve inadvertently come across a bit of sugar, in a processed sauce or a bought salad dressing, I’ve been overwhelmed by the horribly chemical overload of sweetness it now produces for me, which does help. But I know that would wear off after a couple of days of determined sugar eating, and I also know that the family would be very, very happy if I went back to making tons of cakes.
For the moment, I’m not going to, but I am going to enjoy the Bake-Off thoroughly, because it’s about a lot more than sugar. It’s about being British, and allowing that one word to stretch so far that it encompasses a woman who cooks in a hijab, a gay doctor and a man who has his own flock of guineafowl.
It’s also about the simple joys and good clean fun of smutty innuendo, it’s about elderly ladies being treated with the reverence and respect they deserve, and it’s about machismo being reserved for bread. It’s celebrating triumphs, accepting that disaster is only ever a curdle away, and knowing that if you set foot in a tent in Britain in the summer, there’s an excellent chance that it will be lashing with rain outside. Above all, it’s about bunting, making things for other people and apologising when you don’t need to. I’m sorry, but it’s wonderful. Good luck to all the contestants tomorrow, and I hope everyone watching enjoys it as much as we will.