Deputy Editor Kat Smith takes a look at The Great British Bake Off’s take on veganism
Bake-Off is frequently dubbed the definition of wholesome, with it bursting at the seams with heart-warming quotes, happy tears and quite simply, the intrinsically lovely act of baking.
In some ways, the introduction of a vegan week for this series of GBBO is another reason why the nation’s favourite baking show is just that. Being an on/off vegan and a full-time veggie aware of the horrors behind the bakers’ eggs and butter, I sometimes find it frustrating to watch. It can feel like a display of ignorance. The worst was the Victorian week with game pies, making the Bake Off tent feel unwelcome for vegetarians, let alone vegans.
In 2016, we got a glimpse of hope when previously plant-based baker Rav got selected for the show, but it was disappointing when his predominantly vegan diet failed to translate to the screen. It’s not clear whether this was his choice or whether animal products are a compulsory part of the TV show. Either way, traditional baking with traditional ingredients seemed to be a persisting theme in GBBO.
Now, in 2018, with the rise of the vegan lifestyle and refraining from meat consumption being somewhat fashionable now, we finally have a vegan week. At first sight, it seemed like a momentous leap in the right direction. Now, it feels like a mere minor step towards appeasement. While it is good that we have a vegan week, perhaps Bake-Off needs to embrace the many different ways of baking and reflect the audience it is created for. More vegan bakers, more vegetarian bakers, more gluten free bakers: the show is meant to inspire us and if it can become more inclusive week-in and week-out, this will be far better than concentrating this into one week. There are approximately 3.5 million vegans in the UK, which is not exactly the majority but is still a significant number. A bit more awareness of this would go a long way.
There’s also the matter of execution; how will veganism be presented in the challenges? Will it be this inaccessible diet where restriction reigns, or will it be shown to be an exciting and new way to bake? Time will soon tell.