GBBO: the four life lessons we can learn from a very tough chocolate week

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Helen Bownass
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As the contestants melt under the pressure of chocolate week, we learnt some surprising, and philosophical lessons, from the Bake Off Tent. Warning: episode four spoilers ahead. 

It’s chocolate week for the Bake Off contestants. And although it wasn’t the greatest of baking weeks – not one handshake was proffered, although there was one ‘Pruegasm’ (not my words!) thanks to Hermine’s lemony showstopper - yet again I found much philosophy nestled amongst the bunting and sweaty foreheads.

Maybe it’s because I’m desperately crying out for some meaning and guidance in these uncertain times (and I am, I really am). But 90 minutes of watching people wrangling chocolate and flour provided me with more life guidance than a week immersed in the self-help section of Waterstone’s. (It’s also given me the knowledge that the bakers can’t take their phones into the tent. Did everyone else know that?)

Here’s what I learnt…

GBBO: Sura
GBBO: Sura

Don’t fear simplicity

Like a doom-monger from the depths of despair Paul Hollywood uttered the words: “If you can’t produce a decent chocolate brownie, there’s going to be problems.” Inciting fear into the hearts of each and every baker and making them overload their cakey creations with every sweet thing known to humankind – including ‘freezer juice’ c/o Lottie.

And the results were an unmititgated disaster with comments ranging from: “very tough” and “I don’t like the flavours either” to Sura. And: “They don’t look good at all. It does look a mess” to poor old Marc. Indeed every contestant got a “hammering” and as Lottie observed, “We’ve all made it harder than it needed to be.” 

It’s a good reminder that we don’t always need to make things tougher for ourselves. Keeping things uncomplicated is okay, sometimes it’s even better than okay, it’s exactly what is necessary. Brownies don’t need bells and whistles, the joy is in their intrinsic brownie-ness. Just as the brilliance of you is in your absolute you-ness. 

Also, and this is an important point, just because someone (Paul) says something is simple, it doesn’t mean it is. You are the only one that gets to decide if something that you are doing is simple. 

GBBO: Mark
GBBO: Mark

You can’t control everything/anything

Sometimes life doesn’t just give you lemons it gives you a worn-out husk of citrus that you can’t squeeze a drop of lemonade out of. And sometimes it gives you 25 degrees on the day you’ve got to spend four hours building things with white chocolate. That’s just the card you’ve been dealt that day. Don’t fight it. Work with what you’ve got.  

GBBO: Peter
GBBO: Peter

You don’t have to be the best

“All you have to do, is not be worst!” You’re not going to see that pearl written in a swirly font, on a pastel backdrop, on Instagram anytime soon. But Prue’s mantra to Lottie struck me deep.

It sounds counter-intuitive, particularly in a competitive setting, but there’s something refreshing about being reminded that you don’t have to be the greatest at something. You don’t even have to be in the top three. Aim low, but not right at the bottom, and everything might just work out okay. It proved a good strategy for Lottie at least, less so for Sura who I was sad to see leave the competition tonight. 

GBBO: Laura
GBBO: Laura

And sometimes the simplest comment is the most impactful

Compliments were in short supply tonight:  “It’s different, it’s risky, it’s okay” was about as effusive as it got. Although Paul did redeem himself (in my eyes) when he said to Laura: “You put a lot of thought into it” of her white chocolate and blackcurrant creation. 

It was a simple thing, but she shone from the inside when he said it. It means a lot to know people truly see us and appreciate our effort. Even if what we’ve come up with is messy and looks like two different cakes glued together. 

The Great British Bake Off is on All 4

Images: Channel 4