It’s going to be easy, everyone says so. You’re a top chef, you’re pals with the owners of the TV channel and the owners of the newspapers. They’re all on your side. The food critics agree to pick holes in the other side’s offerings or leave them ignored on the side of the plate. You can’t lose.
So you get together with some other TV cooks and you come up with a recipe that can’t fail. You test it round the dinner table with Nigella’s friends. The metrofoodies love it. You’ll win the Great British Bake Off, and you’ll be everyone’s favourite contestant. You’ll be loved. You’ll get your own series. And it’s as easy as boil in the bag.
So you carefully measure out the heavily refined starch from which you’ve removed any specks of uncomfortable truth, a generous helping of sour cream, a liberal helping of E numbers, add a dash of bitter and lavish topping of froth. Stir it vigorously to mix things. You whang it into an oven that your friends have carefully preheated to the correct accusatory temperature. Sorted.
You’ve followed the recipe to the letter, it’s looking great. You’re cruising to victory and it feels so good. The food critics have already started printing their stories of your mastery of the art of cooking. You’re the saviour of the Great British dish, you’ve created a masterpiece from the crumbs off the table to offer the Scots.
But your Positive Cake for the Union refuses to rise, it’s an indigestible mess. You test it on some polling panels. But however much you stuff it down their throats, it only gets vomited up back in your face. Some tweaks must be needed. Nothing to worry about. Just a hiccup.
You carry on regardless, but the results don’t change. The hiccups get worse. It’s puzzling, it should have been an easy gig. You want a make a dish that gives Scottish voters salmonella, so they’ll never be able to face a referendum again without feeling queasy, but you’ve got to make something they’ll swallow first. And they’re not swallowing it.
You go over the steps in your mind again, and again, and you just know you did everything exactly according to the recipe. It ought to have worked. Why isn’t it working? Everyone said it would work. Proper serious big city people. People you thought were experts said it would be a piece of cake. Yet something’s missing, something’s not right. Something’s gone wrong, but you don’t know what. The kitchen clock is ticking.
You try again. You redouble your efforts and you put everything into it. You add extra bitter, try a dash of bile. You call on Phil Hammond for some alien ingredients. You get George Roberston to cook up a cataclysm. But now the judges are sniggering and looking at you with a mixture of disgust and pity. They won’t even touch the plate.
The harder you try the worse it gets. So you scream, and wail, but no matter how much you hurl abuse and shout and swear, you’re still no closer to finding out why the supposedly sure fire recipe went so badly wrong.
And time is running out. Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins are hovering in the background getting ready for their piece to the camera, ready to show the world how idiotic you’ve been. You can see your reputation before you, a sugar spun confection arching gracefully through the air on a trajectory for the floor.
The judges are assembling and they look in your direction. Some of them are laughing.
But it can’t be right. Don’t they know who you are? Have they no respect for your reputation? The judges can’t really choose a granny from Anstruther with her home baked offerings over you. How can people prefer those? You can’t charge £120 per serving in a posh London restaurant for that amateur stuff. You won’t get into a French restaurant with that, you say, and the Spanish will veto it.
The granny must be lying. She must be deceiving. Her scones must be full of a nasty addictive chemical that causes cancer and everyone will die a horrible lingering death while you sit smugly by. If people eat them they’ll probably turn violent. After all, those scones are explosive, they’re blowing you out the water.
The cameras are on you and you feel that it’s all a bad dream. The one when you were giving a speech to a crowd and you didn’t realise you were naked apart from your socks. How can you possibly be beaten by an amateur? She must really be in the pay of Alicsammin Inc, the evil international pie conglomerate. They’ve contrived all this in a kitchen buried deep within a secret underground lair.
The judges must be a bunch of provincials. They’re just acting emotionally. It just takes time for the subtlety and nuance of the bitterness to be replaced by common sense. Give it a bit longer and the revolting taste of your puke inducing offering will be forgotten, and the judges will realise that you are after all a chef with an international reputation and this is punch above your weight cuisine. They love it in the expensive restaurants in London.
But there isn’t much longer left. The kitchen clock is ticking.
People are going to mock, and you know it. You’ll never make a soufle again. You’re the triple A rated chef who’s going to be stuffed by a granny from Anstruther with her home made scones of destiny. They’re just so moreish.
Tick tock. Time’s up. You lose.
The bastards have put real jam in them. And they did it deliberately. Why didn’t you think of that?