by Erica Maria Cheung — University of California, Irvine
February 15, 2017 – 12:27
The Great British Bake Off is a cozy show. As Graig Uhlin and Gabriel Huddleston have already described, the GBBO is appealing because of its underlying good-natured ethos. However, another important aspect of the show adds to its overall sense of happy, cinnamon-scented coziness: its representation of diversity. The GBBO provides a happy and comfortable representation of Great Britain as a postcolonial metropole.
Every season, a diverse group of home bakers come together under a large, white tent in an unnamed location. While under the tent, all bakers are free of their political associations and are on equal footing; they are in a multicultural, postcolonial utopia away from the realities of Brexit and The Daily Mail. However, this utopia is not post-racial. Race still plays an important role in creating a sense of comfort in difference in the GBBO. South Asian spices have a special place in the show’s history because every season bakers have attempted to fuse curries, masalas, and chutneys with such traditional British dishes like pasties and Victorian game pie. While judge Paul Hollywood usually responds with a skeptical raised brow at the thought of a curry-induced soggy bottom, the general reaction is usually one of excitement at the prospect of a successful dish that would represent the “ethnic” flavors and spices of Britain’s former colonies. As Uma Narayan has argued about the domestication of Indian ingredients in U.K. pantries, the GBBO presents “ethnic” ingredients and identities as assimilable flavors to the British palate through the culinary act of fusion.
This is particularly true for Nadiya Hussain, who is the first person of color to win the title of “U.K.’s Best Amateur Baker.” The clip I chose is from the final episode of season 6 in which Nadiya is announced as the winner. I believe this scene epitomizes the postcolonial cozy because Nadiya’s win is a symbolic celebration of friendship and flavor across difference in the U.K. Audiences can’t help but smile and rejoice as Nadiya is embraced by the judges while her fellow competitors speak of how deserving she is of the win and the GBBO family take part in a festive afternoon tea. However, what happens when bakers leave the white tent? And what can be said of the “ethnic” foods that fail to fuse?