Why The Great British Bake Off is the Best Show on TV

David explains how “The Great British Bake Off” inspired him to dive back into marvelously complicated and challenging bakes and changed him in some small but profound ways.

Great British Bake Off : Omelnickiy

Let me make myself perfectly clear: I’ve never been a trendsetter, early adopter, bandwagon-jumper, or a sheeple (sheeperson?). And I’m certainly not someone who’s fashionable. (Proof below.) I was the budding writer who, in 1976 at 16 years old, spelled the name of the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd as “Leonard Skinnard” in a short-lived music column for The Spectator in Somerset, MA.¹ It’s quite possible I’m the only person in the English-speaking world who tuned out “Breaking Bad” after the second episode.² And I’m still not sure who Rachel Zoe is, although Renee is bonkers for her.³

So it’s not surprising that it took 11 years for “The Great British Bake Off” (or, in America, “The Great British Baking Show“) to catch my attention this November. But quarantine will do that to a guy. After eight months, I had blown through every conceivable streaming show I could tolerate until, bereft, I reached what I thought was the bottom of the barrel and settled in to watch 12 amateur bakers making signature bakes, surmounting technical challenges, and whipping up towering, sometimes teetering, showstoppers to be judged by steely-eyed Paul Hollywood and the saucy Prue Leith. Read more “Why The Great British Bake Off is the Best Show on TV” »

How to Have a Satisfying Thanksgiving on Zoom (Honest)

Don't Kill Grandma, Stay Put This Thanksgiving and Zoom : Reshma Gopaldas

The warnings are everywhere. On TV, radio, even NYC sidewalks. Cancel Thanksgiving! is the rallying cry. And while I’ve been pleading with all of you on social media to stay home–exactly as the CDC and this particularly blunt graffiti artist say–I’m not heeding that advice. But it’s not a “do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do” bait and switch.

The One and I are going to see Momma Leite, but we’ve been isolating. So has she. We’ve gotten COVID tests for the fourth time (all negative), so we’re hazarding the road trip. Basically, we’re bringing our antiseptic bubble to her antiseptic bubble.

Of course, not everyone can isolate for two weeks. And getting a COVID test this close to the holiday is impossible in most places. But there are still ways to have a special day this Thanksgiving–even when you’re not together. Read more “How to Have a Satisfying Thanksgiving on Zoom (Honest)” »

Emotional Baggage About a Bag of Holiday Nuts

Diamond Mixed Nuts

I don’t know about you, but I’m very careful with my nuts. I have to be. I’m not allergic or anything, but I hold dear a cabal of prejudices stemming from what amounts to early childhood traumas. And my particular brand of nut crazy kicks in big time at this time of year.

It started in November 1966, when we moved into our new home, which my dad built. My mother had a holiday tradition of setting out a bowl of Diamond mixed nuts in the shell on the low-slung living room coffee table. (Momma Leite was mightily influenced by mid-century Danish design.) My dad had his own ritual, which he brought over from Portugal: making an “X” in the bottom of a dozen or so chestnuts and tossing them in the oven.

Surrounded by mixed nuts, I grew curious. I grabbed the heavy etched nutcracker, the kind that could do damage to a two-pound lobster, and had at it. It was then I began to understand that not all nuts are created equal.

Let me break it down for you:

Walnuts were the hardest nut to crack. Anytime I tried to get one into the cracker, it ricocheted off glasses, vases, or the hi-fi, and eventually wobbled under the furniture, only to be found by my panic-stricken mother sometime in February. Read more “Emotional Baggage About a Bag of Holiday Nuts” »