aka The Thing That Sarah-Jane Did.
1. OK, let’s not pretend that there’s anything in this episode more important to talk about than that THING that Sarah-Jane created during the first challenge. Sarah-Jane has been bubbling under as a contestant – the nervy religious one at the back who to this point has probably done more wrong than right, constantly fretting and frowning and relying on everyone else for support. In short, she’s been the green new recruit in a 1980s Alien/Predator/The Thing style adventure-horror movie, and this week was the week when the glorious MONSTER gestating in her belly burst forth into life in the form of a Beef Wellington. Before the oven it was scarily immense. Once placed in the oven it expanded rapidly, growing doughy tentacles and bubbling and glowering out through the little oven window. At this point John (who seems to, along with James, serve as a Backseat Baker for some of the less naturally gifted contestants) tried in vain to remedy matters but even he, with his sage tips of “throw more pastry at it, for the love of GOD woman before it kills us all!” couldn’t stem the terror. But only once it EMERGED was the true horror revealed. Sarah-Jane had created a leviathan behemoth of a Wellington, purple meat the shade of a nasty bruise spilling out of giant labial pastry flaps. We are all lucky that the expert Pastry Technicians of the Great British Bake-Off got to it before it expanded to the size of Chester and asphyxiated us all in its meaty walls.
2. So, anyway, that business over with, this week’s theme was pies. I do like a good pie. And in the context of the Great British Bake-Off, the theming also offered us a chance to hear that rare beast – the lady themed innuendo. Oh sure, in British culture we occasionally get the odd boob-food metaphor but only in pie week could we all get together as a nation and titter merrily as Cathryn flaps around the kitchen sighing “It won’t stop dripping! Why won’t my pie stop dripping?! Oh no! It’s leaking all over the tabletop!”. Or whatever it was she said. This has generally been a very sausage-centric series of the Great British Bake-Off (after this week’s reveal all the remaining men have been Star Baker (BUT SHE KNEW HOW TO DIEEEEEE!) whilst none of the women have been) so it’s good to see the women keeping their end up in at least one area of the show.
3. MEL WAS BACK! I was so happy to see her merry gurning face there at the beginning of the show that I almost neglected to question whether a Beef Wellington actually counts as a pie (it so doesn’t). And, in this week’s first History Segment, we got our clues as to maybe why Mel had to skip a week. It seems like it may well have been because she had gone off to film (breathe it softly, BBC 2 viewers) amongst the working classes. Because, as she revealed by very solemnly telling us “freshwater eels were once part of the staple diet of the working classes” this week Mel was going to eat Eel Pie, accompanied by “food journalist” Oliver Thring for moral support. I always presumed that all “food journalists” were in fact failed Masterchef semi-finalists at a loss for what else to do with their lives, but I’m sure I’d remember seeing “food journalist” Oliver Thring’s face before. Hem hem. Anyway, Mel ate an eel pie, looked bilious and then had to take a week off. You do the (food) maths.
4. The first challenge of the week, as we have mentioned, was the Wellington Challenge. Which is apparently a pie now. I mean…I’m not a “food journalist” but I’ve never really thought of a Beef Wellington as a pie. Then again for a long time I thought that a Beef Wellington was something invented by Tracey Ullman solely for an episode of The Simpsons so I’m probably not the best person to ask. It did allow Sue to strike a blow for masculine innuendo in this lady-bits heavy week by telling everyone that their Wellingtons had to be at least 8 inches long (a length that John seemed mildly alarmed, and mildly excited, at the thought of having to accommodate in his oven) F’NAR F’NAR. The highlight of the round of course was The Thing That Sarah-Jane did, but also making a play for memorability were : Cathryn, who made a British Breakfast Wellington that resembled in concept the grislier end of the Ginsters “It’s 2am, You’re At A Service Station In Pontyprydd What Else Are You Going To Do?” range but which actually apparently tasted rather nice, although Mary did pay it the rather back-handed compliment of being really suitable for a child’s palate ; Brendan‘s cheesy, fishy Wellington ; John‘s Wellington for which he laminated his pastry (must have been hell trying to get it through the machine – no wonder it turned out so thin) ; and James who created a “Four Pig Wellington” which frankly sounds like a wrestling move/sexual position. Given that James turned up in John style denim shirt and plunging neckline I’m not convinced that he wasn’t trying it with him. In its wrestling manoeuvre variation obviously. Denim and rib-cage is the quintessential uniform of the 90s professional wrestler. What?
5. This week’s technical bake was for a pork-pie style pie. This was briefly very exciting for me, because the jelly from a good pork pie is one of the food-related memories I would highlight if I were to write a tedious Nigel Slater “I ate a poussin then hated my step-mother some more HOW PROUST” style book. And then the list of ingredients rolled on. Chicken (yay!), BACON (yay!!) and then…apricots. BLOODY FRUIT. I bet iN Pizza Week they make them cook a Hawaiian. (There is going to be a Pizza Week yes? That’s baking at its HIGHEST LEVEL!). Anyway, the challenge was quickly subsumed entirely in the tricky task of getting your pastry around the wooden dolly properly, a task that was visually represented by all the contestants nervously rolling the pastry down its sides, like a 17 year old girl applying her first condom. Needless to say, as in most of those cases it did not end well, with splitting and snagging and tearing all over the shop. In fact Ryan’s pie was completely unrecognisable at the end of the process, and had in fact turned into a rather sullen flat pasty. Champion of the Technical Bake was Cathryn, a victory that prompted her eagerly to grin that she really hoped she could be Star Baker just ONCE on this show, oh how exciting, her kids would draw her a picture her and tell her they were proud of her and she could stick it on the fridge! Oh well…
6. Much to my excitement, this week there were TWO HISTORY BITS! This caused me to run excitedly to the bedroom of my flat yelling to Steve that “THERE ARE TWO HISTORY BITS THIS WEEK, OH MY GOD!”. Then he nonchalantly said that this was a thing that happened occasionally and I could not believe that I lived in a world so beautiful, for which I had not been adequately prepared. Anyway, this week’s second History Bit was about apples, because the third challenge (which we’ll get to shortly) was to create an American Style Fruit Pie. And what would more quintessentially American than Apple Pie? Which is of course why none of the contestants did one, leaving this week’s tales of Johnny Appleseed and bounteous harvest flapping vestigially. It did however one-up “food journalist” Oliver Thring by bring to the world’s attention “food ANTHROPOLOGIST” Kaori O’Connor. Whatever next? My eyes have been so opened to the world of modern jobs by this show. I hope schools careers teachers have been paying attention, because I weep to think of all those little food anthropologists in potentia who might never fulfil their full potential because their schools encourage them to be vets or architects or modern pentathletes or something.
7. I think this is where I talk about Danny, because her struggles to become a fully-fledged reality contestants have been bothering me for some time. Whilst some contestants, like James with his fluffy doe-eyed good looks, and John with his quick tongue, clearly were made to enthrall the nation, Danny’s just a normal 30something doctor who can bake well and is struggling to find a role for herself in front of the camera. This week though, showed how I think Danny can move forwards to fully round off her Great British Bake Off story-arc. Firstly her vegetarian Wellington was nice enough, but didn’t really have much to it (do you see?), then her pork/chicken pie had no jelly (ask Beyonce), then finally she gave in to fate and poured gallons of alcohol right down the neck of her fruit pie (do you see Danny, *wink* glug glug glug). Now that’s the sort of arc I see for Danny before she inevitably finishes 4th/5th. GET ON IT DANNY.
8. The final challenge this week was, as previously mentioned, to create a sweet American pie. A challenge that rather sadly prompted Mary Berry to use the phrase “wow factor”. I can’t believe they got to you too Mary. I thought you’d hold out. Ah well. This challenge was probably most noteworthy for grinding Cathryn’s dreams of being Star Baker into the dirt after she produced a peanut-butter pie that tasted, in her own words (and horrified Charlie Brown style gestures), “disgusting”. Poor Cathryn. To be fair, I can’t imagine a contestant that less embodies the American virtues of self-confidence, high self-esteem, and shouting than Cathryn, so it’s probably only right that she flounder here. Other highlights of the round include ; Brendan impressing the judges more and more, as his transformation into a Joel Grey villain only became complete as he shot daggers at Sarah-Jane for managing to avert her impending doom with her pie ; Sarah-Jane who created an oozing caramel delight that looked more exciting in the drawing the show did of it, where the topping was in the shape of the Stars And Stripes not what it ended up looking like in reality, which was the closing scenes of Bugsy Malone ; and John’s wise musings that the fact that there was too much going on in his pie was only reflective of the STATE OF AMERICA. Such a poet that one. Maybe he could become a food philosopher one day.
9. This week’s Star Baker (SHE NEVER COULD CRY!) was, in the end, Ryan. It was a bit of a muddy week, Star Baker wise, as so much of the first round was taken up by The Thing That Sarah-Jane did, and pretty much everyone screwed up the Technical Bake, meaning the balance of power rested almost solely on the Showstopper Bake, which is where Ryan created THE GREATEST BAKE EVER SEEN ON THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF (or something) with a Key-Lime Pie that pushed the boundaries of gastronomic experimentation by…erm…having a bit of ginger in it. I liked it mostly because it resembled the swamp cakes that my ex-boyfriend Doug made at University that were unified solely by the fact that there were green and had stuff in. In absence of actually being able to taste any of the food from the show, this will just have to do.
10. Hitting the dust this week, sadly, was Manisha, who screwed up her puff pastry, performed indifferently in the Technical Bake and then created a gooey meringue flob of a cake that would have been a stand-out disaster in a week that didn’t include The Thing That Sarah-Jane did. This, combined with her generally muddling record so far was enough to see Manisha off, back down the pub. Also she cried a bit about how she hopes she didn’t let anybody down, which was a bit depressing, but whatever Manisha, you beat Victoria, who was South-East Business Woman Of The Year 1988 (Knitwear Division) so take some pride in that.
Next week : Bonda Fide Floorcake, Cathryn hurls dought at Sarah-Jane’s face, and John slits his wrists. Steven will be recapping, unless I throw a hiss-fit and DEMAND the rights to write about it all because it looks AMAZING.