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Half-Baked

jurgens pavlova

by Dr. David Sanders

Jürgen Krauss is not a household name but you would certainly want him over for dinner if he offers to bring dessert. We were late, but got hooked like so many before us on the GGBO—The Great British Bake Off show during the pandemic. There are so many reality shows of this genre but GGBO is unique in how it creates warmth, caring and connection among its contestants who are vying for being crowned the overall star baker.

The current season is on Netflix and a new episode airs weekly. Each week has a theme and one of the bakers is selected as the star baker. It is unusual for a baker to win in consecutive weeks but this season started off with Jürgen Krauss, a man with a distinctive German accent and heritage winning twice for his precision, design and flavors. Already in the early going three of the bakers, all men, have been vying for star baker, but as was the case for prior seasons, the title is always up for grabs—one disaster can mean the end of a superlative run of incredible baking.

In our house, we have favorites and root for them. When Jürgen was selected as star baker after the second week I not only felt disappointed for my favorite baker, Giuseppe, I also recognized a feeling of antipathy for Jürgen. Was it his manner, his precision or his German accent that I was responding to? I was not sure which of those ingredients were leaving a prejudicial taste in my mouth. I felt ashamed for my judgment but could not deny that as much as I was rooting for Giuseppe, I was rooting against Jürgen.

All that changed in last week’s episode of Dessert Week with the first challenge of baking a flavorful pavlova, which is one of my favorite delicacies. The judges usually saunter over to the bakers to ask them about their unique twist to the assigned challenge. Jürgen was busy at work baking Matzoh and whipping up a batch of Charoset (Sephardic style). Shock and more embarrassment flooded over me. Jürgen, we learned, who is from the Black Forest region of Germany, is married to a British Jew, and their family belongs to a Reform synagogue in Brighton. When questioned by the judges, Jürgen patiently explained the symbolism of the Charoset mixture and its significance for the Passover holiday.

I am still rooting for Giuseppe but Jürgen’s German accent and meticulousness are now as sweet to my sensibilities as his pavlova would be to my palate. It wasn’t that I now felt a kinship with Jürgen and so let go of my prejudice—it was that my judging him was so blatantly confronted to reveal the foolishness of my initial judgment—a lesson I hope I can apply to the exposing of any prejudices which are based on surface knowledge. Half-baked perceptions like half-baked cakes, are not worth the calories.

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