It was a beautiful misty day in the U.K. The morning rain was getting lighter and keeping the air moist. “Misting” as we say back where I’m from. I had landed a spot on The Great International Baking Show, a pilot episode of a new program, so I was in the tent with my apron tied up all tight and my baking brain all ready for the day. They told us three days each week baking a variety of goods. They told us not to be shy of the cameras, just to face front and keep our chins up. I said, “Superb, guvnuh! Let’s go!” So they fired up the ovens and cranked up the cameras. We were given our first task. I heard Mel and Sue say it perfectly clear, “Make as many cookies as you like in the time given.” I mixed up some general dough faster than fast and modified it a bit to make chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, anise drops, frosted sugar cookies, and some hermits.
While I’m baking I like to listen to some music, so I lined up some great surf songs. I had Dracula from Houston, Surfin USA (Summer Mix), Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf), Make Mayan a Hawaiian, and The Jetty. I figured everyone around me would enjoy Surfin USA (Summer Mix) since those boys are straight out of Scotland.
Pretty soon I was cranking out the cookies. They paraded two people up in front of us and told us they were the judges, a Paul and Mary duo. They looked nice enough to me. The Mary character said, “Where’s the music coming from?” And I said, “Don’t judge me now, I’m not finished!” So they took her and the Paul character away, and I completed my plethora of cookies at the ding of the timer. I took them all out and started lining them up to cool when the camera crew came over and told me I couldn’t be done yet because they hadn’t filmed me doing anything. I said, “Who gives a rat’s, uh, I mean, sorry, I’m really trying to clean up my English, I can’t exactly start over. Once I’m done—I’m done. You want me to pretend to stir something?” They just shook their heads and started walking away, so I stopped them in their tracks and said, “Hold on, you haven’t sampled the wares yet. Have a cookie.” They started in on the hermits, and I had to stop them, “Actually, don’t eat those; they’ll be better tomorrow. Have an oatmeal.” They took my advice and loved the oatmeal cookies enough to have seconds. Anyway, long story short, after I pleased the entire camera crew with my delectables, I gave some to the other contestants, as well as Mel and Sue (those are some funny ladies, by the way, I love their humor, I mean humour).
Pretty soon everyone else was done with whatever they were making, it wasn’t cookies, and the judges came back out. They introduced themselves this time, as if we might have forgotten in the few minutes since they were gone. Mary once again asked, “Where’s the music coming from?” And I said, “Oh yeah, sorry, I got it.” And I turned it off so we could all hear what they were saying. Then Mary said, “Well, since you’re in my focus, why don’t you be the first to bring up your petit fours?” And of course I said, “Sure, if that’s what we’re calling them now.” I lugged up my tray of cookies which was considerably lighter since everyone helped me thin out the herd, if you know what I mean. I brought them up to the judges and they looked at the cookies that were left: the anise drops. You really have to love that licorice flavor to enjoy the anise drops. Paul said, “They smell delicious, but they don’t look like petit fours at all.” I said, “You can eat all you want though, none of the camera crew put their fingerprints on those.” He gave Mary a look that seemed to have a subdued scorn in it. I figured it was some sort of European tradition, so I gave Mary the same look. She glowered back at me. No words were exchanged.
While they were both stewing over something, I figured it was my chance to test my own poison. I snatched up one of the anise drops and chomped down on it. “Whew!” I said, “I guess I should have used the actual anise extract instead of Jagermeister.” Both judges gave me a surprised look and started chowing down like it was the first plate of cookies they’d ever seen. In between bites, Paul said something like, “This is why we asked for petit fo—om nomp chomp.” I didn’t know it at the time, but Sue explained to me later that the two judges had a love of Jagermeister that predated the company. If I had known, I guess I wouldn’t have made those particular morsels. If I had known those two were trying to kick the habit, I might have been more cautious, and I wouldn’t have been kicked off the show on the first day. I learned later that they decided not to open the show to international bakers, and they decided to change the name to something else.