Watching 'The Great British Baking Show' Makes Me Feel Like Garbage

Watching 'The Great British Baking Show' Makes Me Feel Like Garbage

I'm trying not to think about how my last batch of cupcakes turned out to be criminally underbaked.
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Like many individuals craving a bright spot of stability in our hectic lives, I’ve become addicted to British reality TV. We’re talking “Escape to the Country, "we’re talking “Grand Designs," and of course, we’re talking about the mother of them all: "The Great British Baking Show," which most of the people I know call “The Great British Bake-Off” in a hopeless effort to make it sound more like a competition.

I like the calm, genteel atmosphere of the show. I appreciate the support of the hosts and judges – except the male judge. I enjoy watching ordinary people cook delicious food that I would devour in a heartbeat, even though I’m the textbook definition of a "picky eater."

There’s only one problem: “The Great British Baking Show” makes me feel terrible about myself.

If I were a contestant on the show, the urge to trash-talk and sabotage my competitors would be unbearable. Cameras manned by upright British citizens would catch me swapping sugar for salt, turning off ovens or cranking the temperature up to the maximum, and devouring other people’s bakes before they could be evaluated.

I’m an American, dammit. I seek tension, drama, betrayal — and yet, I’m enthralled by the peaceful baking commune depicted on “The Great British Baking Show”. Given that each episode’s an hour or so long and I can power through three or four episodes at a stretch, I’ve had ample time to consider why such an unassuming show makes me feel like a piece of garbage.

Part of it is that I do genuinely love to bake, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like. I rationalize this by saying that I’m busy with school (true), and the kitchen in my apartment is less than ideal (also true), or that I don’t like baking very much after all (false). The contestants on the show put each one of my excuses to shame. Contestants practice stretching phyllo dough in tiny student apartments; they come home and practice complicated recipes after a long day at work; they manage to craft intricate desserts while their children cling to their legs.

So it’s not that I don’t have the time or the equipment to cook regularly; I just don’t have the willpower.

My baking skills also leave something to be desired. Despite patient and not-so-patient instruction from my mother, who spent part of my childhood as a professional cake baker, I still can’t frost a round cake. When a recipe requires too much patience or too many fiddly steps and instructions, I start throwing the instructions (and occasionally the ingredients) to the side. I’m easily frustrated. Being easily frustrated and disliking complex recipes are not a good combination.

I need to achieve a kind of Zen about my (relative lack of) baking prowess. It’s only when I’m not scrutinizing everything I make, even the things I make with too little time on my hands and flagrant disregard for the recipe, that I actually enjoy the process.

Contestants on “The Great British Baking Show” get flustered, too. Sometimes they drop their cakes, sometimes they cry, but they almost always pick themselves up and keep going. Even I can learn something from that.

In the meantime, I’ll continue watching the show and trying not to think about how my last batch of cupcakes turned out to be criminally underbaked.

Cover Image Credit: Netflix

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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More Burgers, More Food to Talk About

February of last year I wrote my very first post about Little Bad Wolf's highly underrated burger in Chicago. Give that one a read, my detail is comical – no joke.

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Since that tasty treat at Little Bad Wolf, there are others to share the spotlight and applaud! Here are my recent and ever-growing list of burgers to try when you are in the Chicago city limits.

Easter came early last year, April 1, and you bet I took full advantage to get a burger right after that day. I set my sights on Southport Corridor Brewery's burger. Listed at a reasonable $14, your plate presents itself with a double-steak patty, mustard herb mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, Detroit pickles, and a sesame bun! Pair that sandwich with a tasty beer on their rotating menu, and its lights out. Beer, burgers, and oh, did I mention their vinyl selection? Make it a top stop the next time you are in the area.

A few months later, enjoying a week away with the boys, we stopped at a local establishment in Richmond, IL called the Richmond Brathaus. They have a Hawaiian-take on what they title, the Maui Wowee, and boy was I floored from that creation. Swiss cheese, sautéed onions, cherry wood smoked bacon, grilled pineapple and cherry chipotle BBQ combine for what is an excellent sandwich – but to top it off, I got the "Haus fries," which contain chili and cheese – savory heaven. If you are just over the border in Wisconsin, map search "Richmond BratHaus," I guarantee you are going to like what you eat.

My last burger of 2018 was at a newer establishment in the West Loop from the West Coast (California), known as Ballast Point Brewery. The Ballast Point beers speak for themselves, from their "sculpin" line to specialty barrel aged, and rose-influenced beers. They are always top quality. On a cold winter night, there was nothing I wanted more than a delicious burger from this establishment. After a thorough look at the menu, my eyes kept wandering back to the West Coast Griddle Burger, which had American cheese, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, and "wonder" sauce on a brioche bun. They also offer you the option of three in-house sauces as dipping options for your fries. Do it. Even if it is not for the burger, go to the place, especially in the summer for their rooftop!

After four months, my journey for the best burgers in Chicago continues. I continually check Google for listings and names, making sure I am still on the best path. If you have any suggestions, feel free to shoot me a comment or message – recommendations are always welcomed by this guy. Until next time, keep eating, good eats!

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