The world of food competitions is something I’m kind of fascinated with. I enjoy cooking and baking–trying new recipes and sometimes coming up with my own–but it’s not enough of a hobby to make it more than impressing my friends and my waistline.
I do enter the occasional food competition. I recently made a banana, spinach and pineapple pizza that I thought wasn’t half-bad, but it didn’t pass the muster in Chiquita’s competition. That’s understandable, given that the people who do win a lot of recipe contests really work at it and know how to develop a recipe. I’m just a yokel when it comes to that kind of thing, and the non-responses I’ve had to contest entries are proof that I’d have to put some real effort into developing that skill if I want to get somewhere with it.
However, I do enjoy judging from the couch and watching the occasional food competition show. My British friend Angwa failed me this week, when I discovered “The Great British Baking Show” all on my own, and not with the help of said friend who got me into watching “Top Chef.” Harrumph!
Have you been watching? It’s fantastic! Especially when everyone’s baking in The Tent, and it starts pouring rain. So British! And frankly, better weather than the cold we’re starting to get. The contestants have to do three recipe challenges per episode/food item, one of which involves making one of judge Mary Berry’s (who’s called the “doyenne of baking”–it’s got to be fabulous to be the doyenne of something) recipes. The instructions on these tend to be something like, “put it in the oven and bake until done.” Then you see frazzled contestants puzzle over just exactly what that means while furiously checking their pastry.
The contestants come up with some amazing items. During the “Biscuits” episode–after which I felt challenged to learn how to make a proper English biscuit, which will come just after I’ve finished perfecting the Swiss Roll that they had to make during the “Cakes” episode–they made these incredible 3D biscuit displays — think gingerbread house, but with dragons or pirates or ski mountain scenes. And then the judges ate them! Who makes these things?! Who eats them?! Apparently the Brits.
One thing I like about the show more than it just being a good reality competition show (one of my favorite genres to watch) is the fact that it does inspire me to try new things in the kitchen, get to know ingredients better and try new things with them.
For Christmas this year, I gave some foodie friends three jars filled with recipes I’d tried — some bourbon caramel sauce, some bacon jam (if you want a good bacon jam recipe, Cinnamon Cooper’s is the best. The chorizo makes it magical), banana bread muffins and mint chocolate flourless cake. When they’ve emptied the jars, they can return them, and I’ll fill them with other things I want to learn to make, things like homemade ketchup, a good BBQ sauce, pickles, different types of bread, some boozy cakes, etc. It’s a mystery food subscription, and I hope it’ll be fun to keep up with–or rather, with all of this inspiration, see if they can keep up with me.