Netflix’s ‘Great British Baking Show’ Said the Quiet Part Out Loud

One of the most heartwarming television series in the world became one of the most offensive on Friday. Netflix’s “The Great British Baking Show” released its latest episode, titled “Mexican Week,” and it’s full of troubling stereotypes, prompting an immediate backlash on social media.

But the icing on the cake comes during the opening scene, where hosts and comedians Noel Fielding (“IT Crowd,” “The Mighty Boosh”) and Matt Lucas (“Dr. Who”) wore long, colorful serapes and round hats on the middle. of a manicured green lawn just outside the show’s famous white tent. As online reviews spread like wildfire, I decided to watch the full episode. As it unfolded, I blinked in bewilderment. How was this done?

“I’m very excited for ‘Mexican Week,’ absolutely excited,” said Fielding, wearing culturally appropriate attire. “Even though I don’t think we should make Mexican jokes, people will be upset.”

“What? No Mexican jokes at all?” Lucas asked his co-host. “What, not even Juan?”

“Not even Juan,” Fielding replied with a smile.

“Welcome to the Great British Bakery Show!”

oh boy.

If you’ve never seen the 12-year-old British baking competition that has captured America’s heart for more than a decade, this season it’s judged by renowned blue-eyed master baker Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, a South African restaurateur. It’s also co-hosted by comedy actors Fielding and Lucas, the chumps in the cheap costumes I mentioned earlier.

Each episode gives amateur bakers three challenges: a signature bake, a technical one and a sensational one. In the case of “Mexican Week”, the contestants baked sweet bread for the signature test.

At local bakeries (bakeries), sweet bread comes in countless varieties, from the raspberry-swirled coconut pound cake to the more recognizable conch, which my grandmother always enjoyed with coffee.

Many of the bakers opted to try their hand at shells, round buns with a crisp, sugary top that has been slotted. Once the shells come out of the oven, the sweet coating resembles the tops of seashells. It is what the word “shell” means: shell.

Throughout the challenge, it became clear that most of the bakers didn’t bother to put much effort into pronouncing simple words like “shell” or “besos,” which means kisses.

During the technique, the bakers tried to make steak tacos with “spicy” beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole. In this taco challenge, one woman even pronounced “guacamooolee” with so many vowels that it has now become her own meme.

The show’s producers who choose tacos for the technical part in a baking show really show a lack of research into Mexican food and culture. Instead of choosing a bread baking challenge where contestants tried crusty roll recipes like bolillos, or even birote salado, which is our version of sourdough bread, the show chose tacos. For bakers.

Check out the steak tacos for the “Street Food Technician” challenge during “Mexican Week” at “The Great British Baking Show.”

Image via Netflix

What followed was a barrage of contestants peeling avocados like they were peeling potatoes and pronouncing hard L’s on words like tortilla and pico de gallo, not to mention the poor cracks in “Mexican accents.” The tacos were sad, Del Taco-looking balloons served with canned black beans that were blindly spiced with lots of cumin and ancho chili powder.

With all this going on, I was wondering why “The Great British Baking Show” didn’t bother to throw in “El Jarabe Tapatio” or “The Mexican Hat Dance” as the theme song for good measure.

Finally, our clueless contestants took on the tres leches cake for their latest spectacular challenge. Now, I love tres leches cake. Once you find a neighborhood bakery that doesn’t over-soak your sponge, but instead knows the perfect amount of the tres leches mix to add to each layer, that’s your favorite bakery for life.

Some contestants made Aztec pyramid-shaped tres leches cakes, some made white-frosted wedding cakes with floral designs, and many made their layers too soggy that they were soggy. Meanwhile, the show’s comedic hosts couldn’t help but make jokes about tequila and whether or not Mexico was a “real place,” which came across as dismissive of an entire country steeped in a rich cultural heritage.

In the end, the entire “Mexican Week” episode was a waste. Final point. It was also a missed opportunity, wrapped in offensive garb.

Still, he couldn’t look away. While this was disappointing to behold on many levels, it’s really not surprising. Mexican culture is often a punching bag for cheap laughs. It’s also not new for North 54 owner and baker Raquel Goldman, who is known for her delicious modern twist on traditional panettone, which she often sells at the Ferry Building.

“I don’t understand why they had tacos in that episode, because there are so many other options. There are shells, but there is also salty bread, such as bolillos and teleras,” Goldman said. “That’s the amazing thing, for me anyway, about rediscovering my culture through pan dulce, there’s a myriad of breads from every region of the country and I’ll never be able to try them all. They didn’t do their due diligence. And that’s not that hard to do.”

It is not. There certainly could have been more research, thought, and any semblance of effort put into shaping a solid “Mexican Week” episode. Co-host Leith said it best towards the beginning of the show, which offered a glimmer of hope that they would at least try beyond hats and serapes:

“Mexico is full of vibrancy, color, wonderful food, great flavors, and that is what we expect from bakers this week,” he said.

Mexico is all that and more. I just wish that was noticeable in the challenges and the overall treatment of the episode. “The Great British Baking Show” put more effort into the offensive costumes its hosts wore and the laziest jokes imaginable sprinkled throughout the episode, rather than pausing to consider whether the episode’s portrayal of Mexican culture was racist or not. No.

contestants in "The Great British Baking Show" they were challenged to make a four-tier tres leches cake.  The mustache was optional.

Contestants on “The Great British Baking Show” were challenged to make a four-tier tres leches cake. The mustache was optional.

Image via Netflix

As someone who is proud of her Mexican-American culture, and especially the delicious and labor-intensive dishes I grew up eating, there is much more to Mexican food than just tacos and pan dulce. If we’re going the kitchen route: How about a technical challenge on the plethora of ingredients needed to make a mole from scratch? Or, as Goldman suggested, take the initiative to research and explore the variety of baked goods that are a source of pride from region to region.

Food is undoubtedly the best way for people to learn about other cultures, not to laugh childishly at the sounds of common words like “guacamole” or “pico de gallo”.

“It’s a British baking show. A lot of their challenges are centered around other European cakes,” Goldman said. “Why not take advantage of the connection of European influence in Mexico, and then how Mexico took off with it and made it their own?”

“The Great British Baking Show” took a chance and instead really revealed to millions of international viewers what he thinks of Mexican culture. The show said the quiet part out loud, including the pronunciation of “tortilla” with lots of hard L’s.

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