The flower of manhood

So the most interesting question of GBBO’s first-ever ‘Botanical Week’ turned out to be which of the four remaining male contestants was secure enough in his masculinity to breeze through three tasks all about the delicate world of – ahem – pretty flowers. The answer, unsurprisingly, was Selasi, resplendent in floral T-shirt that also – cunningly – showcased his ripped upper arms, announcing from the moment he sashayed into the tent that embracing his inner bridesmaid is no problem for a real man. As if to underline the point, he produced for his show stopper a thrillingly frothy ‘ombre’ cake covered in pink and white roses he’d piped himself. ‘Ombre’ in this context probably means ‘shadow’ – but I think we could stretch a point and say the clear message was that it takes a true hombre to be unafraid of fluffy.

Some of the other hombres were distinctly less comfortable with it. Tom seemed anxious to promote the idea of ‘floral’ as a broad definition that doesn’t necessarily have much to do with classic ‘flowers’: ‘As soon as I heard we were going to be doing a floral cake’ he mused ‘I immediately started thinking about floral teas’. Rav, meanwhile, confided that he was ‘not much much of a floral guy at all, if I’m honest with you’. He seemed unabashed by his eventual elimination. I suspect he secretly thought that tanking a wussy floral cake was, for a bloke, something of a badge of honour.

But if come-back-kid Tom really is a Channel Four meme (an idea I have floated in previous posts about this series), his rehabilitation during Botanical Week should set alarm-bells ringing for those nay-sayers who believe the move to The Dark Side will herald unacceptable changes that won’t work. Tom certainly brought a characteristically idiosyncratic interpretation to the brief: ‘Botanical Week…it’s not just about plants. Anything that grows, goes!’ (Yikes Tom! A plant that’s not botanical!? Didn’t I tell you to stay out of that laboratory?) but after learning the hard way that a pumpkin is not a citrus fruit, he never looked back.

And what of popular favourite Candice? Not usually a shrinking violet, after triumphantly presenting us with ‘a pair of perfect amuse bouche’ last week, she (and her lipstick) this week seemed a bit subdued. The meringue element of her ‘lime, coconut and lemongrass sugar meringue pie’ was supposed to have incorporated some violently green swirls. On hearing this, Paul surprised me by nodding sagely and pronouncing it ‘a nice look, actually’. (Really? Since when has day-glo meringue been a nice look, actually? She’s got them all bewitched!).

Unhappily for Candice, and in contrast to artfully intercut shots of the fine upstanding white peaks of the tent itself, ‘the coconut got stuck in the nozzle’, thereby ruining her meringue game-plan. PollenMary still bigged her up at the mid-way conflab though; and (grrrr) why did they again praise her for doing stuff she wasn’t asked to? ‘We got four different flavours in there. That’s one more than everybody else’ sighed a clearly starstruck Mary, wondering if Candice’s show stopper merited the star baker crown (thankfully, it didn’t). Actually Mary love, it was three more than Rav gave you, but that’s not the point. The point is that the brief was three tiers. Exceeding it equals not meeting it and should never be used as a reason for disadvantaging those who did what they were told.

Also having a mare this week was previously-up-there Andrew. By this stage of the competition, there are no excuses for not having grasped that the show stopper is all about over-the-top pizzazz rather than elegant understatement. Tall, slim and pale, with a top-dressing of yellow-orange flowers flowing down the side, his cake looked as if it might have been modelled on himself, and the tears he had plainly shed after it failed to impress.

I’m glad he remained in the competition. And there is hope. In the interests of gender-stereotyping balance, the BBC has announced that next week’s theme is going to be arranging to watch football with the lads when you promised you’d stay in and mind the kids so I could go out with the girls Ferraris. Which should at least play to his strengths as an engineer.

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