An oven-fresh cookie for the soul.
There’s something about baking shows that feels so soothing. Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge” is my personal favorite, but it’s not the only flavor in a holiday baking assortment. Netflix released new episodes of the sometimes nutty “Great British Baking Show: Holidays,” and Magnolia Network has “Silos Baking Competition: Holiday Edition.”
Watching shows where everything is literally sugar and spice and everything nice, my insides feel like a warm cookie with melty chocolate chips, and I’m not alone.
Amy Poehler, who co-hosts the second season of “Baking It” with Maya Rudolph, says “It feels like a way to self-regulate the anxiety in the world. … We live in a very isolated world, and a very anxious world, and we’ve been apart for a couple of years,” she says. “It’s not a surprise that people turn to comedies and shows like this when their own life has a lot of real-life drama.”
The layered reasons we love baking shows
Experts say that we’re sweet on baking shows for many reasons:
- The pleasurable memories that come flooding back from our own experiences with baked goods.
- Baking shows are like the lavender oil of television, and can calm you.
- Because of their relatability, these programs can instill a belief in ourselves that we could make a gorgeous and delicious creation, too.
Baking up warm memories
Nostalgia is an ingredient making up our fascination, says Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center.
Baking shows have “all of these memories to various things that we’ve experienced,” she says. Her own mother was “a master pie person” who also whipped up biscuits. “You got to go in and you got to play with the dough. It was very much a warm, bonding thing. So there’s all this stuff going on (in baking shows) that makes that both physically pleasurable, as well as emotionally pleasurable, and it’s taking you away from all the stuff out in the world that’s just crap.”
‘A warm bath for our entire nervous system’
Baking shows can soothe us after a day of being constantly stimulated and stressed by our surroundings, says Kristen Harrison, a professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan.
“Our built-in environment is getting more and more dysregulating, so when we come home from being out there … we want to put on our leggings and our soft clothes and cuddle up in a comfortable space and put on some kind of content that’s just going to be like a warm bath for our entire nervous system,” she says. “These baking shows often do that. … The content itself is so soothing that your whole nervous system sort of calms down, and it almost makes you feel cared for in the way that a safe person, or a pet would make you feel cared for.”
The holiday season exacerbates depression and anxiety, Rutledge says, because of the dissonance between our hopes for the holidays and reality. But baking shows “help us build resilience,” she explains, “and they help improve our optimism and help us meet challenges so that the things that we have to deal with are a little bit easier to manage.”
The newest to nosh: ‘Baking It’ Season 2
Baking shows serve inspiration
Baking shows can inspire viewers to try creating confections. A baking show differs from those about interior design or home renovations because baking is more doable.
“Some of the things they make are extraordinarily difficult and you wouldn’t try,” Rutledge acknowledges. But “It encourages people not just to be happy, but also to be inspired to be better or to learn something.”
Can’t get your fill? More baking shows
“Baking It” serves some star power in “Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler’s Celebrity Holiday Special,” now streaming on Peacock. Fred Armisen, Kristen Bell, Nicole Richie and J.B. Smoove throw down for a donation to the charity of their choice.
A holiday episode of “Zoë Bakes” (Discovery+ and the Magnolia app) revamps traditional Jewish dishes, including cake doughnuts for Hanukkah.
Returning Food Network series include “Holiday Baking Championship” (Mondays at 8 p.m., and Discovery+), “Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown” (Mondays at 10 p.m., and Discovery+) and “Holiday Wars” (Sundays at 9 p.m., and Discovery+).
More to snack on
Story Credit: usatoday.com