From ‘Cookery in Colour’ to ‘The Great British Bake Off’: Shifting Gendered Accounts of Home-Baking and Domesticity

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Abstract

This article offers a feminist reading of home-baking. It explores the shifting ways in which baking has variously been bound up with a variety of normative values, such as familial ‘togetherness’, care, patriotism, thrift and display. This article draws on a range of historical examples, from the patriotic virtues of home-baking extolled via British war-time propaganda, and the ‘wholesome, simple and economical’ post-war Bero baking recipes, through to the renewed emphasis on display and baking as interwoven with new consumer cultures in the bestselling 1960s recipe book Cooking in Colour. This article goes on to explore contemporary representations of baking as ‘fun’ rather than as work. Drawing on the popular British television baking show The Great British Bake Off, this article considers how historical associations of baking with thrift, competition and ‘betterment’ are repackaged as cosy and nostalgic via a hyper-real reflection of the past. In keeping with neoliberal assumptions about the meritocratic and ‘life-changing’ potential of reality TV, this article argues that The Great British Bake Off offers viewers a ‘high-consuming ideal’. This article examines how, via the medium of home-baking, the show reinforces both neoliberal myths of individuals as agents of their own successes and also normative assumptions of self-transformation via consumption and commercialization. This article concludes by arguing that The Great British Bake Off offers a version of baking that is both ‘hyper-domestic’ and a type of ‘post-feminist homemaking’, whereby feminist discourses of choice and equality are entangled with highly conventional modes of domesticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-594
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Volume22
Issue number5-6
Early online date1 Dec 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

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