I, like very many people, love the Great British Bake Off. Have you seen it? It’s the coziest reality show you’ll ever see. Some amateur bakers gather in a tent in a field and compete by making biscuits and suet pies and sponge and saying nice things to each other. The judges are a darling tiny woman named Mary Berry, and a total fox who is supposed to be mean, but isn’t really, named Paul Hollywood. The hosts are these two women, probably known in the UK, but just familiar to me as those funny ladies in weird blazers.
The show has been causing a quiet storm in the US. I was first told about it in 2014, and I thought I and the friend who mentioned it were the only two people watching. This year, I heard many more voices chiming in about how charming it was. There are two seasons available on PBS, if you want to get in on it. (Do NOT be fooled by the Great Holiday Baking Show on ABC, which is the American version. While identical in structure, theme music, and Mary Berry, it’s really lacking that je ne sais quoi of the original. Sorry Nia Vardalos.)
I thought the two seasons were it, but it turns out, those are seasons 5 and 6 and there are FOUR other seasons we haven’t gotten to see in the US! But I have some sneaky friends with bit torrent skillz and large Dropbox accounts who are willing to share. (To the internet police: Um. What?) The first season had a totally different structure, and by all accounts, I’m the only one who loved it. Instead of staying put in the same garden week to week, the giant oven-filled tent and its bakers traveled Great Britain, and the funny ladies in weird blazers interviewed historians about where these Great British baking traditions originated and how they became popular and enduring.
For instance, I learned last week that French boudin (sausage) and English pudding probably come from the same root. And this makes total sense when you learn that a pudding was not the sticky toffee or plum thing we think of today, but black and white pudding, which are actually boiled sausages. Just think, without haggis, we might not have Snack Pack pudding cups.
So, there’s your first little etymology lesson. Courtesy of a funny lady in a weird blazer (the blonde one. I don’t wear blazers).