Nigella is corseted, plucked and preened to oblivion. Jamie is artfully ruffled. Heck, even Gordon’s had Botox. Most food television is completely reliant on aspiration and impossible perfection – a lifestyle wank, if you will. This is all well and good but with it comes the risk of self-loathing when the peak of your culinary week is scrambled eggs and toast in coffee-stained pyjamas. Thank goodness, then, for the Hairy Bikers and their willingness to strip down to their stripy pants.
The bikers’ latest show, Bakeation, sees Si and Dave zooming around foreign climes being completely affable and inoffensive. “We’re not just doing baking, are we?” asks Dave at one point. “No, no,” says Si. “We’re doing all sorts of loveliness.” That’s about right. This is somewhere between Long Way Round and River Cottage. No Ewan McGregor, more’s the pity, but the travel footage is certainly the visual high point of the show. In the first episode, the bikers head to Norway. Cue languorous footage of fjords and waterfalls and the toe-curlingly lovely Atlantic Road. A mere five second shot of the latter was enough to incite wanderlust in this dissertation-battered fourth year.
Given that this quite obviously isn’t aiming for perfection, it doesn’t come as a surprise that there are irritating moments. Si, for example, uses “dude” like normal people use commas. The self-referential elements – “Where did you come from?!” when they’re on a boat and a crew member conveniently appears with an oven – are rather trite. At times there’s a whiff of excessive striving for normality and accessibility. That said, though, there’sa chaotic charm to the show that makes it hard to criticise.
And, of course, Bakeation should have a special appeal to Edinburgh University students. Approximately two-thirds of us spend too much money in Peter’s Yard on a regular basis. Cardamom buns, lemon biscuits and rye bread have become an essential part of the George Square diet. Episode one features recipes for everything in that Scandinavian culinary triad. So watch it, bake, save money – and you might even get to experience Nigella levels of smugness.