Why Is There So Much Nasty Food On Social Media?

January 19, 2023Content Strategy Tips, Food Trends

Nasty food is one of the hottest social media trends on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook with viral cooking videos featuring epic food fails that everyone loves to hate. Enjoy them for what they are: idiotic fun!

Spend any time on social media, and you’ll surely see nasty food videos turn up in your feed. Like one that recently made the rounds with the title “I learned this pasta trick in Italy.”

The “Italian” Job

First off, cooking hacks someone “learned in Italy” are an entire nasty food sub-genre. In this one, our intrepid “home chef” shoves a whole box of store-brand pasta into a blender, blitzes it into “pasta flour,” and then proceeds to make … “fresh pasta.” She rolls it out, cutting thick slices of “fettuccine,” which she cooks and dresses with jarred pasta sauce.

hot nasty food social media trends graphic

The result looks like what you’d expect: a stodgy pile of slugs on a plate. Even though “Grace” declares it tastes just like fresh pasta, we know she’s lying.

The food is inedible, obviously, but the video is a viral hit that’s racked up 12 million views on Facebook, tens of thousands of reactions and shares, and more than 100,000 comments.

As someone with culinary school training whose work involves developing recipes for edible food, I should be offended by this mess. But, no, I find it oddly entertaining. I kind of admire its diabolical stupidity.

It’s just one of an endless stream of similar #foodfail “cooking” videos on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. (LinkedIn may be the only platform where they don’t turn up.) This one surfaced in my feed because a chef acquaintance couldn’t help commenting: “This is not fettuccine, linguine, or anything Italian.”

You’d think that as someone with culinary school training whose work revolves around developing recipes for edible food, I’d be offended by this mess.

But, no, I find it entertaining in a so-bad-it’s-good way. I kind of admire its diabolical stupidity.

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Recipe for Viral Nasty Food Videos

These things all follow the same format: A youngish woman in a generic kitchen slowly talking her way through a “recipe.” Whoever’s recording prompts her with off-camera “oohs” and “aahs” and questions. The kitchens all look like something out of a generic AirBnB rental or maybe a staged house for sale that a realtor friend is letting them use. Some bland Discovery Channel universe.

The nasty food “recipe” often involves a variation of dumping ingredients into a casserole dish (or even just dumping everything into the kitchen sink), always with lots of processed cheese, pasta or chicken (or both!), and jarred spaghetti sauce, and shoving that puppy into the oven for the big reveal.

#Fail by Design

This TikTok from @mchasfun for the “Ultimate Fall Mac N Cheese” takes that model to the next level.

@mchasfun Ultimate Fall Mac N Cheese #cooking #crazy #receipe #pumpkin #fall #halloween #cookingonabudget #funfood ♬ original sound – MC Has Fun

The video begins with MC pouring two boxes of dried fusilli into a hollowed-out pumpkin. That’s followed by a can of Bud Light, which she takes care to show to the camera, half a brick of Velveeta, and a boatload of shredded discount-supermarket mozzarella and Cheddar cheese. Diligently presenting crap ingredients to the camera is another hallmark of a fail-by-design “cooking” video.

She crowns this with rosettes made from pepperoni (“I like Hormel because they’re just really salty”), crescent roll dough and canned tomato sauce. She pauses to show us how to make them. Adding a final sprinkle of fake Parmesan dust, she puts it into the oven at 400°F for 30 minutes.

You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay to see where this is going, and that’s the fun. We all know there’s not nearly enough liquid for that pasta to cook.

We’re all here for the nightmare big reveal.

@mchasfun doesn’t disappoint, cutting into the pumpkin to reveal cheese that hasn’t melted and – of course! – pasta that hasn’t cooked. You can hear it clink as it falls onto the plate.

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You can’t tear your eyes away from these slow-motion culinary train wrecks. Watching this, we’re all Top Chef judges. And judging by the creators’ faux-naif replies to insulting comments, they’re in on the joke.

What’s more, nasty food videos have spawned a sub-genre of reaction videos. I’ll watch Philadelphia-based comedian Tanara Mallory’s TikTok duets (@tanaradoublechocolate) several times over. I love everything about them, from her cheery catchphrase (“Everybody’s so creative!”) to her perplexed shock as she reacts to the latest inane cooking video.

Awful = Engagement

Nasty food videos aren’t meant to feature anything someone in their right mind would actually make, much less eat. (Though, I guess, one person’s disgusting is another’s delicious.) Food is merely the medium for this low-brow art form.

They exist to garner views, comments, and shares. If you hate ‘em – and I can understand why you would – your best bet is to keep scrolling. Resist the urge to react at all, other than to maybe click the option to “hide all” from whatever account is spewing this muck. Any reaction, even just pausing to watch, feeds the beast.

Or take a cue from me, and just enjoy them for what they are: the “culinary” equivalent of a Jackass stunt.

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