The Great British Baking Show is on Netflix and months ago Meg was like "you HAVE to watch it because it will change your life" and I ignored her for a while but finally one day in December Skylar, Matt, and I were sitting in front of the TV making a lot of our lives when suddenly Skylar pulled up the show and hit play.
I have never been interested in any kind of cooking show. Usually when someone starts cooking something on TV I immediately change the channel because there is nothing less interesting to me than watching someone on television prepare food.
BUT, the one quality I possess that is even stronger than my dislike for television shows having to do with food is laziness. So I didn't get up and leave.
And that's when I found out that, in fact, there is an exception to my typical rule.
For those unfamiliar, The Great British Baking Show is a program wherein a dozen adorable British people spend their weekends baking in a large and beautiful tent. Their bakes are judged by two judges, who I swear to you are named Mary Berry
and Paul Hollywood
and each week one person is awarded "star baker" and one person is sent home.
And every time they judge any person's bakes, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are always like, "you did a jolly good job on this one" or "I can see that this didn't quite turn out as you had hoped but you tried and you should be very proud of yourself" or on one occasion when a baker got frustrated and threw his baked Alaska in the garbage, Mary Berry was like "oh dear. I bet that was a moment from your life you wish you didn't remember. We all make mistakes."
AND I CRIED.
If you need any more proof that this show is the sweetest thing that has ever happened to this cold depressing world, go watch this 30-second clip right now of Val right after she found out that she was getting sent home.
CROCODILE tears when I saw that.
Skylar started following Val on Instagram the other day and the next morning he woke up and she had insta-stalked him, liked a dozen of his old pictures, and commented "hi" on one of his photos.
Even though this is a competition show, everyone on it is super supportive of one another, stepping in sometimes to help each other when something goes wrong.
As you can see, I drank the Kool-Aid. It was impossible not to after watching FOUR freaking seasons of this show in just a few weeks.
The problem with consuming that much of The Great British Baking Show that quickly is that it led me to a false sense that I was really good at baking.
When people on TV are doing something that pleasantly, it's easy to think what they are doing is easy.
By the fourth season, I found myself politely talking at the TV, giving tips to the bakers like "oh Michael, you need to chill the butter or it will run."
And I legit thought I had become an expert baker by doing absolutely nothing other than watching Netflix.
Because 2018 is The Year of New for me, last week I was suddenly all like "I'm going to bake a very complicated cake from scratch this weekend and it will look perfect."
So I up and bought The Great British Baking Show cookbook at Barnes & Noble.
A few problems with this cookbook:
1. It is a British cookbook so half the ingredients in it, it turns out, are things you can only find in the UK. I spent the majority of my Saturday googling ingredients and finding out, per the entire internet, that there is no acceptable substitution for, say, "double cream" in the United States but "we guess" you can use heavy whipping cream and then just start prayin' to Jesus that it will work.
I went to SEVEN different stores to try to gather the 25 ingredients I needed for this cake.
2. The recipe required nearly $200 worth of equipment that I (a) did not have and (b) have never before heard of in my life.
I went to FOUR different baking stores to try to find all of this equipment, promising myself with every purchase that I would use that oddly-specific thing of which function I was still completely unsure "like, all the time."
3. All of the ingredient proportions were listed in the metric system and every time I asked Alexa "how many cups is 280 grams of castor sugar" she would scream back at me "GRAMS CANNOT BE CONVERTED TO CUPS YOU IDIOT."
Because a certain amount of grams of one thing is a completely different amount of cups as a certain amount of grams of another thing might be, and because I was dealing with such strange ingredients, the amount of research and math I had to do just to find out the recipe proportions should have earned me a PhD.
By the time I had gathered all of the things I needed in all of the right amounts it was literally a whole day later.
And THAT'S when crap got complicated.
The first thing I did was sit down and read the recipe because Mary Berry is always all like "READ THE RECIPE THOROUGHLY."
I kid you not. Reading the recipe took me over an hour.
Why? Is Eli illiterate?
No. Eli is not illiterate.
It took over an hour because every third word in the four-page recipe had a star next to it, which meant that if you didn't understand what that word meant, you could turn to a key at the front of the book and read how to do that thing.
It was like a super unfun Choose Your Own Adventure.
So there could be a sentence that says "After brazing* the water-cooled* chocolate, temper* it using the German Method*, but be careful not to grain* the leftovers after the sieving* process."
And because I don't know WTF any of those starred words are trying to tell me, I have to go look in the key SIX times just to understand ONE sentence in this FOUR-PAGE single-spaced recipe.
AND, every single one of those things in the key has at least FOUR long paragraphs of explanation, and sometimes the freaking explanation has starred words so I would have to flip through the key to understand the stared word in the starred word explanation and at one point I got so deep down this rabbit hole that I actually forgot what recipe I was supposed to be making altogether.
But I REFUSED to let this recipe beat me.
Every time I got overwhelmed I shouted, in a polite British voice, "Eli. This recipe is not better than you."
I had decided to make a four-layered caramel cream orange zest chocolate mirror glaze cake.
It was supposed to look like this:
See how shiny it is? And smooth? And totally covered in chocolate? And see how beautiful all of those candy decorations are on top.
LOWER your expectations.
After NINE FREAKING HOURS.
Every single dish in my entire house was dirty.
There was chocolate EVERYWHERE.
You guys. I don't know what happened.
The chocolate did not "simply pour" from the bowl like the recipe predicted.
It was so lopsided that you all need plastic surgery just for having seen it.
Skylar walked in at that point and saw my masterpiece.
He was laughing so hard that he actually couldn't breathe.
I had run out of time to candy the hazelnuts and so I gave up on those last few steps and with Skylar's help I cleaned it up as much as I could.
I was slightly proud of myself for the chocolate work on top.
Which looks ok as long as you don't compare it to the model picture.
I fed this cake to my family, who upon looking at it made a handful of comments about whether or not it was going to taste like Robitussin.
At the end of the night I still had half a cake left and I didn't know what the hell to do with it so I decided to put it on a paper plate and walk it over to The Perfects's's's house and see if they wanted it because they already know I'm a garbage person so at least they wouldn't be surprised.
The entire family came to the door because they are perfect humans and every one of them is so adorable that it should be illegal for me to even see them.
Eli: I spent the entire day making this cake and it was supposed to look beautiful and you were supposed to be able to see yourself in it but instead it looks like this and I have to burn my kitchen to the ground but it tastes fine so do you want it?
Mrs. Perfect: The chocolate work on top looks very--
Eli: Let's not do this, lady.
This is a moment from my life I wish I didn't remember.
~It Just Gets Stranger