She always was the real star of The Great British Bake-Off and now Mary Berry has finally ditched that hanger-on Paul Hollywood and stepped out into the limelight with her own half-hour show, Mary Berry Cooks (BBC2).
This week, it was recipes for a traditional afternoon tea, an occasion which, as Mary said, is "considered a bit old fashioned, but I'd miss it terribly". We'd miss "M-Bez" terribly too but, despite turning 79 this month, she isn't the least bit old fashioned. Travelogue cookery, with expensive, impossible-to-find ingredients is what's old hat; simple, budget-friendly family recipes are very much of the moment. This series promises to be a lesson in just that, and delivered by the nation's favourite home ec. teacher, no less.
If M-Bez sounds too informal a nickname for a woman as august as M-Bez, consider that Mary Berry Cooks is not only more practical than other cookery shows, it's also more personal. During the prep for a chocolate tray bake cake, Mary revealed her secret hiding place for scoffable goodies: "That's in the draw with my tights. Nobody would go there." We also met her grand-daughters, when they joined her for the child-friendly orange butterfly cake recipe and she shared fond reminisces of cream teas by the sea, when her own children were young. (Note that Mary says "scone" to rhyme with "John", not "scone" to rhyme with "Joan". We may now consider the matter settled.)
By the time everyone sat down to afternoon tea, it was as if we were already old friends and certainly intimate enough to venture one potentially touchy observation: all this cake baking is delightful, M-Bez, but it isn't much of a departure from what you usually do, now, is it? Next week should present the real challenge, we're assured. She's serving up a complete dinner party menu.