When Prue Leith joined the cast of Great British Bake Off in 2017, people understandably had their strong opinions. She was, of course, no Mary Berry, who left when Bake Off producers moved the program from the BBC to Cable 4. (A somewhat niche drama for U.S. viewers.)
It’s always an abrupt change when, after many seasons, a show changes its hosts or judges, but my only real objection to Prue was a catchphrase she immediately introduced as her trademark: “It has to be worth the calories.” I first noticed the phrase in a season the premiered on Netflix in 2018, when Prue and fellow judge Paul Hollywood are evaluating a baker’s white-chocolate and cherry oatmeal biscuits, which she prepared with whole-meal flour. After taking a bite, Paul remarks, “Feels healthy!” to which Prue replies, “No, they’re not. But it is worth the calories.”
After railing against this comment at the time in a blog for my former employer, I’d assumed she had retired the saying, which I still contend brings too much of the Real to the Bake Off tent. To my best recollection, the phrase did not appear at all during the last season of the show—which aired during lockdown—and if Prue used it the season before that, it must have been sparing enough that I don’t recall. So imagine my dismay when Prue resurrected the expression less than halfway through the first episode of the newest season.
This time, she and Paul were tasting mini Swiss rolls baked by a contestant named Jairzeno, who filled his with passionfruit caramel. After Paul points out that “the bitterness from the sugar is perfect” and the passionfruit filling is “delicious,” Prue hastens to add: “It is so worth the calories.”
Once again, this kind of rhetoric doesn’t belong in the world of the Great British Bake Off, whose existence is confined to a serene green pasture in the British countryside where everyone has a profession that sounds slightly made up and, somehow, numerous hobbies not including baking. Great British Bake Off is escapism, or, as my coworker Emily Alford put it last year, “the decadent sublime”—a place to go away from the horrors of everyday life. It is no great demand, I think—on a show where the objective is to make elaborate delicious treats—that such a thing as “calories” be temporarily suspended. At the very least, there’s no need to mention them.