Three Life Lessons Gleaned from The Great British Bake Off…


Three Life Lessons Gleaned from The Great British Bake Off

I no longer enjoy cooking. My idea of a great meal is one that someone else has cooked. And as for baking, well, I was never a baker, for baking is essentially chemistry, precise measuring, all the while considering altitude and humidity. Too much like work, when you can purchase deliciously made sweets and savories all the while supporting local businesses.

So it’s odd that I’m now enamored with The Great British Bake Off. But it’s not the baking that has captivated me. No. It’s the people, both bakers and judges and then whoever those two jocular women are who insist on picking up spoons, asking questions while bakers are trying to concentrate, and, once, toppling over a carefully arranged stack of…something that looked like a cross between a pancake and a cookie. I’m fascinated by their actions and responses and love the way that the show’s producers/directors portray them. I’ve learned a lot from them, not about cooking, but about life.

So here are three life lessons I’ll share:


Sooner or later someone will take your ice cream out of the freezer without your knowing it. They will neither admit this nor apologize. It will ruin what you are attempting to do. Now, the life lesson is that you must keep your cool, though your ice cream has not, continue with what you have left, do your best, and present your product with as much aplomb as you can muster. It will get your points for poise and dash. What you should not do is throw a fit and make a production of throwing your entire creation in the trash. You will be voted off for sure and will have to live with YouTube views for the rest of your life.


There will always be someone who will want to help, sometimes officiously, even though you prefer to be left alone. They will huddle over you, they will talk to you, they will clean up what they think should be thrown away. Often it should not be. It will not matter what you say to them. And finally, as they turn to leave, they will brush against your carefully constructed skyscraper of pancakes and gingerbread. It will topple. They won’t know this because by this time they are bothering someone else. When this happens, and, to be sure, it will, though it may your ego that is toppled rather than cakes, just pile them up again as best you can and go on with life. After all, it’s only cake, or, in most cases, your self-esteem. Under no circumstances, throw whipped cream, raw eggs, or scatological insults at the perpetrator. That will only mark you as an hysteric. Time later for tears and tantrums in the privacy of your own home where, I  hope, there would be doughnuts, suitably purchased from a local bakery, certainly not a shop that specializes in doughnuts.

And, third,

There will always be a beautiful, green-eyed, gazelle of a 20-year-old, who will present her bakes with quivering lip and tear-filled eyes. She will say, her voice catching, that her work is terrible. She will enchant at least one of the judges, who will comfort her. Such comfort will involve making sure she moves to the next level, and then the next. You will seethe and try to hide it. It will give you a major migraine. But do take comfort, eventually – though we may not be around to see it – a better baker will prevail, and that person will win based on the baking, not his ability to line his/her eyes with a color that makes those green eyes even more hypnotizing. However, even though she will not win, she will be the one everyone remembers. There is no getting around this, so when this comes, and it comes to all of us, I advise finding a good book – Jane Austen, Barbara Pym or somesuch writer who appreciates excellent women.

For that is what most of us are. And, really, would you trade it?



On New York and Resilience

Bravo! I took this subway with no guide.. take me back to nyc

On New York and Resilience—

This post was going to be all about me – my resilience, my trip to New York, my seeing the city, and myself, in a new, positive way.

Instead, I write about a terror attack near the World Trade Center, where pictures of mangled bicycles, stories of Argentinian friends, a battered school bus, overcome memories of a clear blue sky and leaves just tinged with gold.

Resilience – New Yorkers have it in spades. And not only from September 11, 2001. I think that they’ve always had it – that it stems from a pride, even an arrogance, of living and persisting in one of the toughest, and greatest, cities in the world. It isn’t easy to live in New York, though I know that each borough has its own distinct personality. The gift to be able to “walk anywhere” is one that comes with a few strings – you have to be physically able to do that, and at a pace that would set the heads of most non-New Yorkers spinning. The subway is always handy – and, depending on your definition of “handy, that could be eight or nine blocks away. And those steps…. not for the faint of heart.

But still, even for this out-of-towner, there is a pride that quickly arrives when one pushes one’s way through a crowd of people walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk – don’t they know? how could they not know? — of quickly and deftly stepping around a crowd of tourists, obviously, who have stopped, three- or four-abreast, to look up at what they think is the Empire State Building (it isn’t) – and what can I say of the swelled head when someone asks you for directions? I must look like I belong here. Sweet…

You need strength to live in New York, physical and psychological. I recognize that by spending only a few days there. And with strength comes resilience. And sadness. And heartbreak.

You can target this city, founded on trade, and money, and what some might consider the worst qualities of our country, but you cannot break it. And for that, we must learn a lesson and be proud.