“The Great British Baking Show” is not having its best year.
The long-running reality show, once considered a heartwarming escape, had a “scary debacle” in the Mexican week filled with more microaggressions masquerading as unfunny jokes than sugar in the tent. On a less serious note, the show’s most recent season also did some alarming things to s’mores.
But it’s the cultural appropriation and utter misunderstanding of other countries’ food and language that rattles even longtime fans. “Because of what’s going on in the culinary scene in London, people’s minds are opening up to what real Mexican food is, and then ‘The Great British Bake Off’ comes along and sets that back 10 years. C It’s almost as if no research or respect has been shown to the culture and the cuisine,” chef Nud Dudhia told the Guardian. Den of Geek writes, “Over the past few years [the show’s] slowly fell apart like Ruby’s vegan showstopper, and this year it finally got splat,” citing the show’s lack of actual cooking, dramatic showmanship, and unimpressive finalists.
Maybe you got it with the show, or maybe you’re just looking for another medium, a break from the small screen that still satisfies your sweet tooth. Salon has curated a list of books that might satisfy that particular sweet, comforting, pie-like “Bake Off” dish. From fictional reality shows with settings as enticing as chocolate cake to baking, baking, and recipe books, here are some new or upcoming novels to sate your appetite.
What is it about : Eleanor Bennett leaves a strange legacy to her two children: the traditional Caribbean black cake. His last request? To “share the black cake when the time is right”. The cake is a family recipe with a long history. Like all great recipes, there’s a story for the two adult siblings to piece together as they work out their differences and learn more about their mother.
Why it scratches the “Bake Off” itch: You won’t be able to read the title of this book without salivating with sweetness. But the details of this novel and its backstory are as rich as the most decadent, evocative and sweeping dessert. A black cake recipe from first author Wilkerson included with the novel by subscription to the book and treat box Sweet readings calls for a whole pound of dark brown sugar – but note “Quantities are approximate. Eleanor never wrote them down.”
What is it about : Everlasting romantic Dev Deshpande is the producer extraordinaire of “Ever After,” the “Bachelor” reality TV show that pairs a Prince Charming with his real-life partner. However, disgraced tech giant Charlie Winshaw is hardly charming because he only came to restore his image. But when Charlie — who’s a robotic, closed-in mess with all the ladies — seems to open up to Dev, they might have to reconsider what a fairy tale ending looks like.
Why it scratches the “Bake Off” itch: Alas, there are no sweet treats of the baked variety, but it does offer that competitive format and a sweet finish. For Dev and Charlie to reunite, each must face their biggest emotional hurdles, have discussions about mental health, and become vulnerable with each other. It all adds up to an open and heartwarming story.
What is it about : Baking perfectionist Simone Larkspur creates recipes for elated cookbook publisher The Discerning Chef, but a pivot to video throws everything into disarray. Not only is she now dealing with a headstrong, SEO-obsessed producer, but also a loud/obnoxious new kitchen manager Ray Lyton who becomes something of a viral star while Simone struggles to stay relevant.
Why it scratches the “Bake Off” itch: Simone is an inspired baker, which means there are plenty of passages detailing how she comes up with original recipes both at work and at home. The book nods to the competitive food industry in general, where celebrity chefs and social media can make or break a career. The conversations about homosexuality in the book are sometimes offbeat, but well-meaning, many like a certain baking show we know who insists on making tacos.
What is it about : After her dream internship doesn’t go as planned, aspiring scholar Ann Stilwell is offered a summer job at The Cloisters, the museum of medieval art and gardens tucked away in a leafy corner of Manhattan. Things are never what they seem, and the place has its secrets, as do the people who work there at this dark university, especially Ann’s boss and colleague, who is obsessed with the old divination, tarot cards – and power.
Why it scratches the “Bake Off” itch: Although not set in the picturesque British countryside, this novel still captures a warm and evocative atmosphere in its richly described setting with ancient walled gardens, creeping ivory, medicinal (and poisonous) herbs and lush tapestries. You will be transported and comforted, at least until the strange mystery begins to unfold. Then you will be fascinated.
What is it about : Emily is a candidate for a “Bachelor“-esque reality TV show called “The One”. She applied in desperation, after losing her job. Cast at the last minute, it soon becomes apparent, however, that she is in the running for the winner – at least, if his producer had anything to do with it in this fun, fast-paced, literary debut novel.
Why it scratches the “Bake Off” itch: We all know by now that reality in reality shows is fake or as carefully crafted as a cake. But “The One” manages to be entertaining in its behind-the-scenes examination, and searing and true in its love sending.
What is it about : In this deliciously fun romantic comedy, Rosaline Palmer is a single mother who faces financial problems when she lands a spot on the nation’s most popular baking show. But while she worries about fallen puffs and soggy bums, she’s also torn between the suave and educated Alain Pope and the gruff electrician Harry Dobson. Who will stand straight like a well-whipped meringue?
Why it scratches the “Bake Off” itch: The competition Rosaline enters is a thinly veiled “Bake Off,” with three bakes per episode and outrageous puns. But it also gives some ironic behind-the-scenes insight into what we all imagine are actually being said by hosts and producers when the cameras are off. Also, no empty calories here; despite a sugary premise, Rosaline’s journey reconciling her feelings of identity and class, gives this book a warm center.
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What is it about : The Mara Survival School teacher, whose job it is to lead the rich into the desert, is desperate enough to accept a role in “Civilization”, a reality show where Mara and her comrades must live off the land. But the producers inexplicitly change the rules for them, and soon Mara, who grew up in a survivalist family, and the others must fight for more than just prize money, but for their very lives.
Why it scratches the “Bake Off” itch: This book will leave you very grateful for your own baking skills, no matter how rustic – or that way, any food as Mara calms down on secret protein bars (which come at a high personal price) and makes boil a lot of nettles. Braverman appeared on the reality show “Naked and scared” and uses his extreme experience in both manhandle him and unscripted television for this gripping, fast-paced story.
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