The Hypnotic Power of the Great British Bake Off
It was the week of the Viennese Whirls. After that episode I just had to have one…or some. My daughter kindly obliged and made a dozen with lashings of raspberry jam and icing. We scoffed the lot within 24 hours. I dare not think how many calories we consumed but they were so very good.
There’s a perfectly valid argument that we were inspired by the programme to bake something that we hadn’t had for a long time, that we hadn’t thought about for years and that we really didn’t need as part of our fairly healthy eating style.
But I think there was more to it than that. No, not Paul Hollywood’s piercing blue eyes and incisive remarks, not the reassurance of Mary Berry’s impossibly slim figure (in spite of all the wonderful things she bakes and surely must eat too?). In part it was the look of those pretty little cakes. Certainly the words used had something to do with it: – delicious, crumbly, smooth, sweet, tangy, buttery, creamy - I bet your mouth is watering already. But what really did it for me, what meant I just had to have some, was that they invoked something deep within.
Those Viennese Whirls took me straight back to childhood, a time of safety and comfort, when small fancy cakes were a treat, a very welcome change from boring old home-made rock buns. Bought Viennese Whirls came in packs of 6. They still do, each the shape of a perfect shell filled with just the right quantity of icing and jam. One each for the four of us and two cut in half to share.
They reminded me of my childhood home, of sitting around the tea table in front of the open fire, of watching Blue Peter in the days of Valerie Singleton, of Dad enjoying the pleasure of cups and saucers, milk jugs and dainty tea knives, of having nothing to worry about except running about in the countryside and playing with Lego, and of course the unconditional love of my dear old Mum.
That’s what those Viennese Whirls were really about.
So next time you watch a cookery programme and find yourself immediately reaching for your mixing bowl, just pause a moment, be aware of that compulsion, and where it might really come from. It might bring back some happy memories in which case you could indulge yourself by daydreaming for a while and not bother with the baking…or the eating…
As for Viennese Whirls, I thought I'd be good for another ten years but we had to buy a pack for this photo…but as far as the eating is concerned, honestly, my memories could serve me just as well.