News, Culture & Society

JAN MOIR: This vegan Bake Off row reveals Britain’s bubbling cauldron of hate 

Mild-mannered vegan Freya Cox must have thought to herself: ‘Appearing on The Great British Bake Off? What could possibly go wrong?’

I’ll polish up my whisks, I’ll show off my vegan baking skills, perhaps encourage more viewers to follow the vegan route.

I’ll move on with my life, maybe even become a better person, a happier person, a more fulfilled person. Above all else, a person who has shone a light on the terrible complications of making nice cakes without key ingredients such as butter, eggs, milk and even honey.

For Freya is a person who believes she can ease the suffering of animals by promoting bakes made with alternative non-dairy derivative ingredients on national television. All good? Not so fast, young lady! This is Britain 2021, after all.

Mild-mannered vegan Freya Cox must have thought to herself: ‘Appearing on The Great British Bake Off? What could possibly go wrong?’

This is the place where micro-aggressions bubble and stew in the hate cauldron, where fanatics sweat the small stuff and zealots trample over the middle ground in their bid to get to the moral high ground.

And that can grind a girl down, if she is not careful.

Each week, Bake Off (C4) features a technical challenge, in which all the contestants must use exactly the same ingredients. You can’t substitute anything for a vegan alternative, or what is the point?

In week one, the bakers had to make a malt loaf, which involves eggs. Of course, Freya didn’t want to use eggs — the everyday bounty of the humble hen is against her creed.

But she made her egg-enriched loaf anyway, because she didn’t want to spoil the show. She knew this would happen, so each week uploads ‘veganised’ versions of these recipes on her website, to show it can be done.

At the age of 19, Freya is the youngest contestant on this year’s Bake Off and really, all credit to her for coming up with a workable and sensible solution to this dilemma.

Except that it didn’t work. In these times of triggering and enthusiastic offence-taking, there can be no surrender and no compromise. Yes, even if we are only talking about a cake.

Each week, Bake Off (C4) features a technical challenge, in which all the contestants must use exactly the same ingredients. You can¿t substitute anything for a vegan alternative, or what is the point?

Each week, Bake Off (C4) features a technical challenge, in which all the contestants must use exactly the same ingredients. You can’t substitute anything for a vegan alternative, or what is the point?

Animal welfare group Peta is furious with Bake Off, branding the decision to make Freya use eggs ‘disgraceful’ because it could compel contestants to ‘violate their ethical, religious or other principles’.

The Vegan Society proclaimed that by welcoming a vegan baker for the first time, the show should have ensured vegan products were used during every task. Ridiculous!

Perhaps worst of all, in the cesspits of social media, other vegans sneered at Freya for lack of principle, for staying on the show instead of refusing to take part.

But if she had, none of us would have learned how to make her vegan raspberry and lemon mini rolls. Judge Prue Leith deemed them ‘a bit hefty’ — but that’s vegan baking for you.

Poor Freya was even castigated online for riding horses as a hobby, which hardcore vegans believe to be yet another example of terrible cruelty to animals.

Wait until these joyless extremists discover that millions of Brits take captive pets known as ‘doggies’ for ‘walkies’ every day. And that said doggies often wear collars and freedom-curbing leads. Sometimes they are even coerced into fetching sticks; surely such forced labour is against the Canine Rights Act?

What is wrong with everyone? What happened to common sense? Sometimes the lack of respect or acceptance of views that differ from your own is downright depressing. Everyone seems so angry all the time.

Over recent weeks, there have been garage forecourt brawls to buy petrol that isn’t in short supply in the first place. Protesters have glued themselves to motorways to draw attention to the lack of insulation in British homes, even though they haven’t bothered to insulate their own.

At the Conservative Party conference, Iain Duncan Smith was allegedly hit over the head with a plastic cone and abused by five people, who have since been arrested.

Once upon a time, activists who bumped into politicians whose views did not coalesce with their own might have passed by with a cheery tip of the hat and a wry acknowledgment of opposing beliefs. Those days have gone.

In these times of triggering and enthusiastic offence-taking, there can be no surrender and no compromise. Yes, even if we are only talking about a cake.

In these times of triggering and enthusiastic offence-taking, there can be no surrender and no compromise. Yes, even if we are only talking about a cake.

So many are so convinced of the moral superiority of their argument that debate or disagreement are now routinely replaced by enraged trolling or statue-toppling fury.

All Freya Cox is doing is trying to enlighten viewers into the mystery of vegan baking — and I, for one, am grateful for her efforts, believing that life is too short to use chick pea-water aquafaba instead of egg white in a recipe, but willing to be persuaded otherwise.

Speaking of animal cruelty, my vegan cakes haven’t been fit to put in a nosebag and fed to a horse.

We all know, because ethical vegans are always telling us, that their lifestyle choice is about much more than simply diet. It involves reducing harm wherever possible, which extends to both animals and the environment — but not, it seems, to fellow vegans who invoke their displeasure.

On the sultana-pitted surface, this is just about a cake on a TV show, but it’s about so much more, too. And none of it good.

Everybody needs good neighbours like Kylie

Kylie Minogue is moving back home to Australia after 30 years of living in London. Oh no! Say it’s not so.

This is terrible news, worse than the ravens leaving the Tower or the red buses being given a blue makeover. Even her local restaurant got in touch to say: ‘Kylie, please don’t go.’ Which says everything you need to know about the good-natured princess of pop.

Should I regale you all once more with the time I met her in the local Italian deli and thought she was a friend of a friend? We had a lovely chat about mozzarella, and it only dawned on me who she was when I got home. Having Kylie in the neighbourhood was a treat; it was always heartening to think that she was around, a firefly in a jam jar on our drab streets.

However, at the age of 53, she has decided she wants to be near her family back home in Oz — even if it means leaving her boyfriend here. Age brings not just wisdom, but the clarity to know what is really important. Bon voyage, girlfriend!

Universities have been allowing students to get away with bad spelling and grammar because they did not want to come across as ‘elitist’, or should that be ‘ellitist’? If the uni bosses had their way, no one would know the difference. And it wouldn’t matter if they did. Except that it does.

The higher education watchdog Office for Students has said that this lax attitude to spelling and grammar has to stop, not least because it is ‘patronising’ to expect less of disadvantaged students. Thank goodness for that. And surely it’s criminal to put them at an even greater disadvantage for the rest of their lives? If people can’t use the English language properly, why bother studying in the first place?

Surely students themselves would not want to waste their time being coddled and condescended to instead of being stretched, pushed and educated?

It’s a disgrace that universities have been citing equality laws as a reason not to mark down students for poor writing skills. If that carries on, no one is going to learn nuffink.

Here’s a loaded question: who’s spending all this cash?

A Ferrari showroom in West London has two of its £375,000 supercars in its window — and both have sold stickers on the bonnets.

The Ritz hotel dining room is practically fully booked from now until January, while the new Nusr-Et restaurant in Knightsbridge is doing a roaring trade in £600 steaks with all the gold leaf trimmings your conscience can swallow.

Someone out there is splurging, but who?

Brooklyn’s a silly sausage

The chef Escoffier said that, above all, keep it simple. But there are limits. And Brooklyn Beckham trying to launch himself as an international gourmet sensation by making a bacon butty on television is my line in the sandwich.

On The Today Show, clueless Brooklyn showed millions of Americans how to make a snack with egg, sausage and bacon: an in-bread delicacy that he claims was taught to him by his great-grandmother.

Watching this affable but charisma-free, talentless dolt muck about with a skillet then try to pick up a fried egg with a pair of kitchen tongs was embarrassing, verging on the tragic.

As a nation, our culinary reputation is already at rock bottom in America, and Brooklyn’s secret tip of slicing a sausage in half ‘to make it cook better’ can’t have helped.

Kindly host Hoda Kotb tried to be encouraging. ‘Love that,’ she said, when Brooklyn mopped the grease on his rashers with a square of kitchen towel. He’s so gifted!

Careers as a model and a photographer haven’t worked for Brooklyn — how many more glamour professions must he rattle through before he gives up and gets a proper job?

Hankies at the ready. Sir Peter Bottomley says MPs find it ‘desperately difficult’ to survive on £82,000 a year. Sob. The MP for Worthing West must be retiring soon, or he would never have dared say such a thing, nor put his majority in jeopardy. How out of touch can he be to complain in a week when poor households in the UK lost a £20-a-week booster to their benefits. ‘It is grim,’ he said, but he was talking about MPs, not them. Bottomley believes MPs’ salaries should be brought into line with GP salaries of roughly £110,000. He said it is a high-pressured job that absorbs too much free time. You could say the same about policemen, firemen, nurses and carers — who earn a fraction of MPs’ wages. None of them has an expense account, either. Few people, with good reason, believe MPs give us value for money. And if, please sir, they want some more, can I suggest that now is not the time to ask? 

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