Having and not having the cake

Baking in a time of lockdown

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  • Published 20221101
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-74-0
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

I KNOW WE were all doing new things in the summer of 2020, the summer at the end of that year, not the beginning. New hobbies for a new world, or anxiety hobbies for an anxiety-filled one, or just a desperate grabbing at anything that might defer another bout of online shopping. I hadn’t spent my lockdown doing jigsaw puzzles – too little space, too energetic a dog with too indiscriminate a mouth – or making sourdough or banana bread, though I understood the impulse there at least, something about productivity, something about tactility, about time. Instead, I’d spent most of my lockdown at my girlfriend’s house, fleeing the sudden fullness of my own shared home, and she used her oven so infrequently that there were shoes stored inside and it seemed awkward and unkind to mess with such a system.

In the summer of 2020, instead, over those dusky, muggy nights that I love so much, what I found myself doing for the very first time was watching baking shows. Or rather multiple series of just one baking show, The Great British Bake Off, a full decade after it first aired (the skinny jeans and feathered hair are testament to that). I know that doesn’t sound all that remarkable, but I had never watched any of the competitive cooking shows that seemed to dominate the entire mediascape for a time, not a single one, not even or especially not at that time when they were very difficult to escape. When contestants’ faces would cover whole sides of buses and the major news sites ran episode recaps on their landing pages and my still-toddling niece would rate my mother’s meals for presentation as well as taste, and the sales of any particular ingredient – ling or lamb or longan fruit – would skyrocket at Coles in the week after a series favourite used it in their showcase dish and all kinds of people were talking about three-ways, which was very startling if you (like I) didn’t know they were referring to vegetables.

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