Do they not have Mexican food in the UK?
They must. Somewhere. Surely?
I mean, it’s a grand and glorious cuisine, one that is far more than just tacos. It’s got flavor! It’s got variety! It’s got spices!
Okay, maybe that last one is a bit much for the UK, but I’ve visited a few times and have always eaten well there – it’s not like they’re unfamiliar with the concept of good food. Surely somebody has thought to cash in on that with a Mexican restaurant?
Hello? Is this thing on?
The Great British Bake Off (as it is properly known) is back for another season of mild drama, decent human beings trying to make just the damndest baked goods you’ve never heard of, and the usual slew of double entendres and uncooperative chocolate. It’s one of my favorite shows because there really aren’t any villains. The contestants get along, the judges almost always have at least one positive thing to say, and in the end the winner gets a glass cake tray so it’s not like there’s a whole lot at stake. It was one of the things that got me through lockdown, and I look forward to it whenever it reappears with a new season.
If you’ve not seen the show, one of the things about it is that each week has a theme. There’s Bread Week, for example, or Pastry Week. It gives everything a little focus.
This past week was the first ever Mexican Week, and let us all pray to the deity or deities of our choosing that we will never be confronted with such a thing again.
It didn’t start off badly. The first challenge was to make pan dulce, which most of the bakers figured out – they get the first and third challenge in advance, after all – and which the judges actually seemed competent to address.
And then the wheels fell off.
The second challenge – the one that comes as a surprise to the bakers - was for the bakers to make tacos because of course that would be the task, right? Tacos? Sigh. Leaving aside the fact that making tacos is cooking not baking and those two things are Not The Same Thing At All, it very quickly became clear that not only had the bakers never actually eaten a taco (or “tacko” as everyone on the show insisted on calling them) but neither had the judges. I knew we were in trouble when the camera followed Paul and Prue back to the judge’s tent while the bakers did their thing elsewhere and there between them was a carefully laid out platter of what they clearly considered to be proper tacos.
First of all, no. These were not tacos. These were tostadas.
Second, the tortillas were apparently a quarter inch thick, which does not make any sense whatsoever.
And third, they were mounded with fillings – enough fillings for a dozen tacos each!
Then they tried to eat them, which is how these little “let’s visit the judges during the technical challenge” interludes always go, and it went as well as expected even though Paul insisted he’d been to Mexico recently and this was how tacos worked.
NO! YOU ARE REVEALED AS A SHAM, MR. HOLLYWOOD! YOU HAVE NO GROUNDS ON WHICH TO JUDGE TACOS! GOOD DAY, SIR!
Every American watching this show no doubt had their heads in their hands by this point. I have no idea what Mexican viewers were doing. Probably just stunned into silence.
The camera then cut over to the contestants, since that’s what we all tune in to see anyway, and the chaos deepened.
Most of them had clearly never even seen a taco, let alone made one. And they didn’t really get much of a chance to make one properly since they only had a pie plate to flatten the tortillas and – as is always the case with the technical – the instructions were basically “Make the thing. Good luck!”
Have you ever driven past an accident? A pile-up so egregiously awful that you had no alternative but to slow down and stare, even though you know before ever hitting the brakes that you will regret every second of that experience?
Yeah, like that.
The final challenge was a “tres leches” cake, which the hosts insisted on calling a “trez letch” cake but which most of the contestants could at least wrap their heads around.
Tres leches? En esta economia?
I’m going to make tacos for dinner this week, just because I feel it needs to be done to restore balance in my universe. They will be unremarkable American versions of tacos because that’s who I am, but they will still make me feel as if I have done my tiny bit to restore Mexican cooking to its proper place of honor, if only in my own head.
And I’ll eagerly watch next week’s Bake Off episode because I just really want to know how you follow something like Mexican Week on a British baking show.