I feel like I'm speaking on behalf of everyone when I say that, so far, lockdown has been full of ups and downs. One minute I'm full of life, and the next I'm laying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling and desperately wondering when all of this will end. Although, amidst this emotional rollercoaster, there does seem to be one thing that has remained constant for everyone: baking.
Prior to lockdown, my only serious attempt at baking occurred a good few years ago when my friend and I decided to make some Oreo brownies. We had such good intentions and tried so hard, but the end result didn't quite match our efforts. The brownie was completely burnt on the outside, yet somehow still raw in the middle. After this disaster, I came to the conclusion that it was best to leave the cake making to the professionals. But now something has possessed me and I've gone full Nigella. I'm effortlessly whisking up banana breads, cookies and cakes, and everyday on social media I'm seeing friends and family doing the same. As we approach our 9th week in lockdown, there's only one question on my mind...
Why is everyone suddenly obsessed with baking?
On the same day that the UK was put into lockdown, I was flying home from Australia. I left a country that was relatively unaffected by COVID-19, and entered one that was fully prepared to defeat this disease. With this battle-like mentality came the emptying of supermarket shelves. Given the current situation and nature of the virus, the bulk buying of soap, hand gel and even toilet roll made sense to me. However, I've now been back at home for a couple of months and I've noticed a shift in our priorities. Of all the powders we could choose from, flour has become the nation's drug of choice, and we just can't get enough of it. Due to the national shortage of ingredients, my weekly bakes have been forced to take a back seat. Sugar, eggs and flour are definitely up there on my list of things I take for granted, so their absence in the shops has highlighted just how many people have turned to their kitchens as a saving grace during quarantine. I personally started baking in lockdown for when I fancied a sweet treat and couldn't just nip to the shops to get one. However, the more I make, the more I start to realise that there are bigger reasons behind why the whole of Britain is now baking up a storm.
Firstly, baking helps to pass the time. There's only so long you can spend on your phone each day, so for many I suspect that baking has become a productive and well needed release during a time where we literally have nothing better to do. Taking a chunk of time out of your day and dedicating it to creating something from scratch not only makes the clock move faster, but it also adds a bit of excitement to your day-to-day routine!
Secondly, baking is good for the mind. I used to get totally stressed out by the idea of baking. 'Brownie-gate,' for example, was a totally chaotic experience; we made an absolute mess and had nothing to show for it. But now I can definitely appreciate the calming effect that baking can have over you. At the moment, we all seem to be completely out of control of both our lives and the events taking place throughout the world. So, there's something very reassuring about knowing that you have control over your bake. You can adjust the recipes, add some new toppings, colour your icing... the power lies entirely in your hands! Plus, there's nothing better than the smell of a freshly baked cake coming out of the oven, and it smells even better knowing that you made it yourself.
Finally, baking brings people together. Every year, shows such as The Great British Bake Off are viewed by millions, and many bakers have a special place in our hearts... I mean, Mary Berry is the nations Grandma without a doubt. Now that these shows will inevitably not air this year, perhaps people have began baking to recreate the sense of community you feel when watching these programmes. Rather than joining others in live tweeting about who actually deserves to be star baker, you can now make a cake yourself and have your family judge it! Baking is also a great way to reconnect with people during this strange time: you can drop your friends round some freshly baked goods on your daily walk, or even have a cook off on Zoom. The possibilities are endless, but there's no denying that people will always bond over a freshly baked cake, made with love.
I suppose I should've seen this new obsession with baking coming. After all, us Brits love nothing more than 'popping the kettle on' when the going gets tough, so surely a global pandemic calls for a slice of cake to go with the tea.