I’m proud to be a bloke who bakes. Am I part of a kitchen revolution?
Let’s start with a confession. I am a bloke, and occasionally, when nobody’s around and I’ve had a quiet few minutes to myself, there have been occasions canada goose coat 1000 when I’ve baked. Nothing complex, you understand, nothing froufrou, over-elaborate or otherwise questionable, but yes, I can admit, here among friends, that when I need a cake I find a recipe, get the ingredients and bake the thing.
This little behavioural quirk, I am staggered to learn, has suddenly put me in a new demographic vanguard. I am, it seems, one of a canada goose coat 1000 bulbs led huge growing movement, a countrywide surge. We are, apparently, the Men Who Bake.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this great cultural change can be traced to a single source: The Great British Bake Off. A quietly spoken and, by all accounts, charmingly sensitive young builder from north London is now hotly tipped to win a final that, mirabile dictu, features two men. Is this not symptomatic of an enormous change in our national attitude to cake-making?
It certainly seems, on the face of it related site, that Britain has gone baking crazy. Thanks to GBBO, canada goose coat 1000 bulbs coupons cake-fettling has crept into the national consciousness – yet I somehow don’t find myself being offered muffins at the pub. When I took my car in to be serviced, it was not the topic on every lip in the lubrication bay.
I know loads of women who bake … I should, I suppose, I own a bakery. I also know lots of male bakers – but they specialise in muscular sourdoughs, get up at ungodly hours to wrestle with great masses of dough, and most of them are, not to put too fine a point on it, sociopathic loons. There shouldn’t be anything inherently gendered about baking, yet somehow it’s laden.
I asked a female baker about a builder getting into the final and her response was refreshingly practical. “It’s no wonder he’s good at it. It’s all about measurement, quantities, three-dimensional thinking and controlling processes.” It’s a lovely thought – though interesting to speculate whether the skills are transferable in the opposite direction.
I called James Morton, Bake Off runner-up in 2012, and, when I racked my brains, the only other male baker I know of. Do men approach baking in a fundamentally different way? “Baking requires a different set of skills. When you think about baking cakes, you’re making an elaborate, beautiful object and the skills canada goose coat 1000 required are definitely seen as more feminine. When I think of baking I think of chemistry, I think equations … biology … yeast … explosions. I see it from a completely different angle.” So Morton doesn’t see himself as immune to the gender gap, he’s just found a way to deal with it by re-framing it in a “male” way. “I suppose, if you look at the male-female divide in science, then those in themselves are quite masculine things.”
I found this idea particularly strong. I have an 11-year-old daughter who’s already a pretty good baker but, like many parents, I’m deeply committed to ensuring that she never forms the opinion that science and technical subjects are in any way “not for girls”. canada goose coat 1000 Is there something about the gender split that’s buried in our upbringing? “I think for any man to make it on to one of these programmes and to be confident, he needs to have been immersed in it. I learned baking from my gran when I was four or five years old. In my teenage years I sort of lost interest a bit. It’s only if you’ve been properly immersed in it when you were wee that you’ll come back to it when you’re older. I think it’s just because my gran was next door and there’s not much else to do in Shetland.” Talking to a poster boy for male cake-making, it’s apparent that it has taken some interesting mental gymnastics and a quite different upbringing to make him what he is. So are we really looking at a profound change around men and baking?
There canada goose coat 1000 bulbs free are some fundamentals to clear up here. It is not an unfair generalisation that men are less interested in cakes than women, so why would they want to make them? I’m sure there are physiological arguments about why this might be, some interesting leads to be gleaned from evolutionary biology, maybe even some psychology, but I’d prefer to stick to the most obvious observation. We’ve authentic canada goose outlet online been pushing cakes and sweets on women as an “indulgent luxury” since the very birth of mass media. Is it any wonder that they’re more best canada goose coat for women interested than men?
For me the biggest problem here is that we are looking to a television format for social insight. Once again we mistake reality TV for … well, “reality”. I’m absolutely positive that the BBC and the producers of Bake Off are 100% fair and open in the judging procedures for the show.
There would never be a meeting in a darkened room where a winner was chosen just to fit an audience demographic or to create more entertaining telly. That said, in every other part of the production, everything is skewed in exactly that way. As Morton puts it: “If you were to have a completely unbiased selection process where just the best bakers were to get through, I’m sure middle-aged and older women would win it every time because they make up the majority of the demographic of bakers.”
He’s buy canada goose jacket usa refreshingly honest about his own place in the baking pantheon.
“The selection process in Bake Off is completely obvious … you have a mixture of races, a mixture of male and female that’s completely even. It’s quite clear that there’s positive discrimination involved. Far fewer men apply than women. I got on to the Bake Off not because I bake particularly well – though obviously you have to be able to bake to a certain standard – it’s because I’m young, male, I’m from Shetland and because I’m a medical student.”
Once the contestants are selected for the show, there is ostensibly a level playing field. The show format is scrupulously fair. What goes on in the tent is meritocratic, fairly judged.
But it’s important, too, to remember that, even if the judging is entirely unbiased, the one-hour show is cut from many, many hours of footage, from several angles and over long timelines. Every shot of every individual is selected as part of an editorial process that moves forward the narrative and that’s what makes the show so entertaining. Ruby Tandoh, the most newsworthy contestant in the last series of Bake Off, is a terrific case study for this. She buy canada goose parka uk was clearly somebody who, as many of us would, became emotional about the experience of competing, but every shot of her crying was included as a result of an editorial decision. There’s another possible cut in which she went through the entire series with grim, dry-eyed determination. I don’t know Ruby, but I’m sure she’s a well-rounded human being with a full set of talents and characteristics, among which are the facts that she’s pretty and she cries occasionally. It takes an editorial decision and a complicit media to make her into “The Pretty Girl Who Cries”.
It’s easy to make jokes about blokes baking, it’s fascinating to question why there seems to be such a gender difference in our approach to something so innocuous, so simple and pleasurable, but what’s really interesting is how a simplistic, popular entertainment show can become such a complex manipulator of public opinion and what it’s trying to achieve.
Is Bake Off attempting to deny a gender rift or heal it? Is it educating men and helping us secret bakers to squeeze out of the closet? Are the producers trying to broaden the audience or are they trapped in some BBC hell of quotas and guidelines?
The idea that the final of Bake Off is representative of a wider change in gender attitudes is naive. The fact that the format undermines its own claim to find the best amateur baker in the country seems a wasted opportunity, but I’m proud that I can bake – though I’ll never be as good at it as most female bakers I know, and I wish any brother baker, including builder Richard, all the luck in the world.
Tim Hayward is proprietor of Fitzbillies in Cambridge. He is the Guild of Food Writers food journalist of the year and Fortnum & Mason food writer of the year