My favorite piece of food writing this week (so far) is this socialist appreciation of The Great British Bake Off (or Baking Show) that ran in Jacobin yesterday. Writer Josh Freedman argues that GBBO is “quietly radical.”
Underneath the heaps of flour and steady stream of baking puns is a challenge to the assumptions we often make about competition, incentives, and power in the contemporary world order. The Bake Off is not a smooth buttercream frosting lubricating the ravages of modern capitalism, but a reproach to its very premises. It offers a vision of creativity, ambition, and hard work that holds up the beauty of individual flourishing without extolling ruthless, interpersonal competition.
This is the socialist dream—the one we sing about in “The Internationale”! The one that we forgot about after all the revolutions (both successful and crushed); the gulags and class discussions where millions of schoolchildren were lectured about the parallels between Animal Farm and the “evil” USSR.
The other thing I love about this piece, besides the fact that it reassures me that I am a radical and a revolutionary for committing the bold act of watching TV, is that it clearly identifies Paul Hollywood as The Man.
The competition is between contestants and themselves (to do their best) and between contestants and the judges: namely, Paul Hollywood — officious cook, bread aficionado, and bearer of the fakest-sounding real name of all time. ... Paul Hollywood has power, and arrogance oozes out of his pores. Mel and Sue are there to give the rest of us a sort of winking acknowledgment that nobody likes people like that. There’s no need to make fun of contestants when you can make fun of the egotistical man-boy in the front of the room.
Come ye brothers and sisters, this is the time and place! The Great British Baking Show unites the human race!