Debate: The Ultimate Cooking Show

The Great British Bake Off
by Miranda Reilly

The heartbroken reaction which rippled through social media last month when it was announced that The Great British Bake Off would be moving to Channel 4 next year – and our beloved Sue, Mel and Mary would not be moving with it – is enough to show how much, perhaps too much, we in the UK love GBBO. In what other baking show do they film in a tent in the middle of a park without doing a ‘outdoors cooking’ themed episode? In what other baking show do they use those cute little animated drawings as they explain each dish? And these are just the icing on this Bake Off cake.

What sets GBBO apart from its cooking rivals, and any other contest show rivals at that, is its uniquely friendly atmosphere. While in its counterparts tensions between those competing are built and pushed to breaking point (and viewers wait for the explosions and trash talking), the tent actually shows contestants helping one another – checking if cakes are baked, giving tips and providing support – just like, well, a lot of people do in real life.

And then there’s Mel and Sue: the brilliant duo adding an element of comedy to the mix with their awful puns and plays on words (note how they’ve rubbed off on me in this piece), and their lack of fear for innuendo. Who could forget, whether you’ve been watching this season or are simply active on Twitter, Mel’s comments on the ‘penis bread,’ which won Tom star baker in week three? Meanwhile, Mary is the perfect grandmother figure to compliment, or maybe take the edge off of, Paul’s sometimes rather harsh comments – although, like with any student with a hard-to-please tutor, contestants beam the brightest when Paul gives them a compliment.

Whether you’re stuck in a room miles from the nearest kitchen, or hopelessly trying to make something creative out of leftover carrots and some bread, Bake Off is the perfect way to fantasise about what you could be making if you weren’t a student at Oxford – or if you had more baking skills.

Halloween Wars
by Alex Wall

A week into term and I am already swamped with work-essays to write, tutorials to attend and lectures where I am struggling to stay awake, the need to catch up on sleep overwhelmed by the demands of my course. I’m a busy student and so when I do have time to sit and watch TV the show in question had better be worth my time! Enter Halloween Wars, a spooky-themed annual cooking competition that appeared quite by chance in my recommended videos list on YouTube this time last year.

A variant of the popular Cupcake Wars formula, Halloween Wars is a loud and proud American creation where six teams fight it out to win $50,000 dollars. In order to win this cash prize the teams must create two amazing artistic displays out of sugar, cake and pumpkins that reflect a certain Halloween topic. They create a small scare and a larger more elaborate display and are judged on their efforts by culinary experts and horror icons with a team being evicted from the competition each week until a winner is crowned in time for Halloween.

Alongside the awe-inspiring displays, the real draw of the show for me comes from watching the teams bicker as they work under intense pressure- accidental hilarity ensuing as they shriek at each other when their sugar work is smashed or when the arms of their werewolf made completely out of pumpkin fall off and they only have five minutes to fix it – the show also creating an all-time favourite quote of mine being “you break my cake and I will break you”.

Bordering on absurdity and parody, this show never fails to put a smile on my face as well as a look of pure awe at the displays that they create – it truly is amazing what can be made out of cake, sugar and pumpkins. A year on, Halloween Wars has become a sort of Michaelmas Term tradition for me and with weekly episodes it helps me to relax whilst slowly getting me into the Halloween spirit. It’s truly the perfect TV treat.