An MFRW Author Post (kind of!) – and check out the other blogs on the hop!
This week’s prompt was to share the best dishes I cook, but I kind of did that last week and I’ll be the first one to admit that I steal all my best recipes from Pinterest, forget to save them and then never find them again. Instead, I thought I’d write about inspiration in the kitchen and in the office.
And to do that, I need to talk about the Great British Baking Show.
I fell into the Great British Baking Show about a week before we moved to Nashville. I had just gotten an IUD implant (again, literally a week before we left) and though they had told me I shouldn’t experience any side effects, I returned from the clinic with intense, lasting abdominal pain that made it challenging to sit up for too long, let along pack the bags and boxes and everything else. In fact, at that point, I hadn’t even started packing. The panic should have set in, but the pain and discomfort outweighed it.
Since I couldn’t sleep, I was stressed beyond belief, and we were in the height of a July heatwave, I thought I might try out this new baking show that kept popping up on my Netflix feed. Pillow tucked under my belly, air-conditioning on high, I watched five straight hours of Mary and Paul encouraging, critiquing and teaching the ins and outs of bread, pastry, and biscuit.
And I was hooked.
As my side effects subsided and I was able to return (or start) the packing process, I kept the show on in the background, pausing from my work to look at the expertly designed and crafted cakes, cookies and tray bakes, and to watch the judges explain what worked and what went wrong. I’ve been an amateur baker for years, and I count dumb luck as one of the fundamental ingredients in why my dishes actually work. But a few episodes into this show and I was learning more about the science of baking than four years of high school chemistry and biology classes.
In less than two weeks of packing to leave and unpacking after arrival, I watched four seasons of the Great British Baking Show.
And, honest to god, it’s made me a better writer.
I know how it sounds. These two disapparate elements of my life shouldn’t cross at that particular point, but they absolutely do. For me, baking is the concrete craft that can have same or next day results, an opportunity to be creative while still working with structure, consistency, and research. I bake because it is both similar and different from writing books and because it helps to me write better books.
Which is why I love this show. Because there is no big prize money–although many of the contestants go on to write successful books and receive great sponsorship. But the show is, at its heart, a pure and simple place to gather around a common love of one thing: baking. And we are all invited.
As I very slowly enjoy the new season of the show on Netflix, I am sitting on my couch and creating my own versions of these masterpieces. Do I understand the nuances of proving times or how to utilize specific rising agents over others ones? Nope. In fact, I’m not even sure when the show is using Britishisms or when I simply don’t have a wide enough vocabulary to know what the baking terms mean. But that’s okay. The judges and contestants walk us through each step, explain what worked or what went wrong and give me, as an amateur baker sitting at home, enough information to think about how I would tackle a project, what flavors I would use, how I would design my cake or bread or cookies.
I know enough to think don’t use too much orange blossom or it’s been in the oven too long and feel great vindication when the judges share the same thought, and I can use my imagination with each new challenge and each new episode–without the massive expense or health effect of eating quite that much dessert.
And each and every time my creative gears turn toward breads and biscuits and flavors and designs and icings and frostings and ganaches, I become a better writer. I flex the imagination and push myself to think of new ideas in a safe, but concrete environment, so I may apply the same process to the amorphous word of writing much larger, much more complicated stories.
We all have our own Tents in life, be it the tent where the Great British Baking Show contestants make their magic, or the apartment where I try to make my own. This simple show, with its home cooking and country wildlife and sense of joy and possibility, helps to make my process a little bit sweeter.