In our brave new world of artisan ad absurdum, one might believe that we have left these sorts of things behind. After all, we are the generation that took the literal gibberish word “gastropub” and turned it into a regular parlance while teaching our phones how to prepare chicken sous vide.
We can’t ignore the ills of the present while decrying the crimes of our ancestors. We have our culinary catastrophe bubbling under the surface—a Level 10-event threatening to drown us in buffalo chicken dip wontons and sausage-stuffed sausages:
It’s Buzzfeed’s “Tasty.”
Doubtless you have seen them: aggressively cut videos in which a pair of disembodied hands churn out recipes at blistering speeds. Occasionally, a simple finger-snap will dice a whole red onion. Seconds later, ground beef dries out on a hotplate so quickly you’d think it had chosen the wrong Grail. Then, as minutes pass by in mere seconds, you watch in horror as unrelated foods are crammed inside of each other in a morbid commentary on the American culinary tradition. You finish the video and know that the bacon cheeseburger lasagna you have just seen birthed is wrong on a fundamental level.
You realize that tater tots are a side dish and have no business being wrapped in biscuit dough and fisted into a chicken, but you click “next.” Another video starts and before you can even process what you’ve done, you’re whisked into a rabbit hole of hotdog gnocchi casseroles and Worcestershire-filled cheddar cheese shot glasses.
In an effort to stem the coming flood, I have taken it upon myself to delve into four of these recipe videos and report to you my findings. Of course, in the name of sound methodology, I have approached these tasks armed only with what information can be gleaned from the videos themselves—as we all know that no one has ever read the accompanying recipes.
I have spelled out the steps for you as best I am able. (I’m still a little shook.)
Shepherd’s Pie Stuffed Potatoes
You will notice quickly that the majority of Tasty videos are predicated on one rule: “Food tastes better when it is inside other food.” In that spirit, the chefs at Buzzfeed have inexplicably looked at Shepherd’s Pie, a traditional Irish dish wherein meat pie is served beneath mashed potatoes or champ instead of pastry. Sure. “Wouldn’t it make more sense if it was inside a potato instead of under one?”
1: Fancy up 500g taco meat (just a standard slab from the grocery store is fine—no one cares what a “gram” equals).
2. Repeatedly prod a potato and render it squishy via microwave ~10 minutes
3. While your taco meat is either charring to a crisp or congealing into meat-jello (your choice—be creative!), vivisect your potato and scoop-out its steaming guts
4. Painstakingly fill potato carcass with meat-jello
5. Attempt to put potato innards back in potato … this is the tricky part!
6. Squash the stupid f*cking thing with a fork
You’ll quickly notice that the bulk of this recipe involves scooping hot potato out of its skin and then fruitlessly attempting to put it back inside, a process as tedious as it is needlessly complicated—especially when the original, centuries-old Shepherd’s Pie recipe simply calls for one to put the potatoes on top of one’s meat-mush. A word of caution, the 1:08 long video does little to prepare you for how incomprehensibly hot your potato will be after you have turned it into nigh radioactive coal in the microwave.
My potatoes wound up as all microwave potatoes do—rubbery and fat-less, tottering on an empty plate and slowly leaking their runny, brown essence through their pierced skins. The potatoes are so infirm that they cannot be cut and simply flatten and rupture upon any application of pressure. Even the British are appalled—and I once watched a man from Manchester feed a baby an entire sausage, piece-by-piece in a public park.
Cinnamon Roll Stuffed Baked Apples
We come to our first example of store-bought, frozen pastry. Unlike Tasty’s Wal-mart series, in which the body shapes of People of Walmart are explained, this video lacks a true product placement. Despite the lack of a label, however, the cinnamon buns in question are clearly Pillsbury—the chewy refuge of everyone’s cooking-impaired aunt. When you watch this video, do so with the sound on, I beg you. The borderline pornographic jazz adds a beautiful layer of absurdity to the close-up splattering of chalky, white glaze across this steaming abomination.
1. Throw away 90 percent of an apple.
2. Passionately cram Pillsbury bullshit into apple peel; note: you’ll have to cut away much of the cinnamon roll as well.
3. Give birth to your brown and wilted shame via baking at 350 degrees.
4. Hurl icing all over kitchen.
5. Eat your shame.
In true Tasty tradition, this recipe sidesteps the perfectly reasonable approach of serving cinnamon rolls alongside baked apples. Instead, the Buzzfeed masterminds have shown us that to truly enjoy baked apples one must throw away the best parts of an apple and save only the skin—what fools we have been!
Firstly, this is the only—and hopefully the last—recipe I’ve seen that has ever requested I pour melted butter into an apple. Secondly, impregnating an apple with a raw cinnamon roll is decidedly more difficult that you’d expect. The apple, having none of it, is prone to collapsing and the cinnamon roll, repulsed by what is obviously the result of the slippery slope of marriage equality, is hell-bent on expanding and popping out of the fruit before you manage to snap any pictures that the Dough Boy might see.
This is certainly the best tasting recipe I attempted, but required a distressing amount of apple and cinnamon roll to be thrown away. This is Captain Planet’s least favorite.
Truly, core of the Tasty brand—unnecessarily fiddly bullshit undertaken to make a handheld food somehow less handheld. Good news, however! This burger has finally answered the unasked prayer for burgers that don’t have ketchup and mustard on top of them, but instead, have condiments, concentrated and slightly burned, inside of them.
1. Brown ground beef and add whatever emulsified goop is in your fridge
2. Increase sugar content of beef for no discernible reason
3. Passionately cram your meat into Pillsbury bullshit
4. Dress with the salad you didn’t eat for lunch
5. Irritate your friends by setting world record for Most Obnoxious Burger in History
6. Enjoy your newfound ability to guzzle down Hamburger Helper without a plate.
This recipe is a monstrosity. It is an affront to both burgers and to anyone foolish enough to waste their time with it. It tastes as bad as it looks. The burger is sweet and cloying, with ketchup deprived of its water content clinging to every bite. It remains too hot for too long and seems almost designed to spray molten beef jelly out the back and down your forearm. It is the millennial Jello salad. The punishment for making it is swift, as you have now added the baffling step of having to wash a muffin tin after cooking a burger.
The Pillsbury biscuit dough, having been squashed thin to make room for the beef-ooze, cooks unevenly and is prone to blossoming out of one side of your muffin tin well, pushing beef out onto the tin proper, to burn and charcoal. The smell of cooking yellow mustard is overpowering and you begin to know the nightmare that is early 20th century trench warfare. I attempted to feed this blistered atrocity my good friend Bobby, a man who lived through four years of collegiate-level swimming subsisting solely on Tyson chicken nuggets. The last thing he ever said to me was, “surprises are supposed to be fun.”
Hot Dog Twists
Hot Dog Twists
Posted by Tasty on Friday, September 11, 2015
Have you ever, while snacking on a greasy, salty pig-in-a-blanket thought to yourself “How would H. R. Giger have painted this?” No? Well, steel yourself, for Tasty has developed just that for your viewing pleasure. A hotdog, dissected into a helix and hand-woven into frozen dough, is apparently the devil’s own blueprint for what, I assume, is the fetid demon-dick that awaits all of us in Hell.
1. Penetrate a hot dog
2. Waste afternoon spiral cutting hot dog
3. Fail to gain any additional insight into cooking as an art form
4. Passionately cram Pillsbury bullshit into tattered hot dog
5. Tell your friends, family, and intestines to go f*ck themselves
It isn’t enough that we have already tried to put Shepard’s Pie inside of a potato. No, our hubris demands that we somehow put the hotdog on the outside of a pig-in-a-blanket. As you can clearly hear a man’s death rattle in the last moment of the video, I assume that cooking this begets a Japanese folk curse and that the only way to avoid having your guts torn out by the ghost of a school girl is to trick another person into cooking it within seven days. I will not ask you to do so—the chain must end with me. I have brought this column into the world and I must end it. The recipe yields a stick, reminiscent of a pig-in-a-blanket, in which the hotdog is chewier and the pastry a bit crisper than one would expect. It is greasy, bland, and prone to separating into its constituent parts to roll around your plate like the tray table of a baby’s highchair. It reminded me a bit of home.
Now, I fully recognize that I am wasting my day aggressively typing out my complaints relative to a Buzzfeed video series. I understand the irony in complaining about videos that are meant to drive clicks and entertain more so than they are to inspire people to cook. Here, however, lies the true problem with Tasty. The videos are fun, they are weird, and most importantly, they are short (it’s possible to watch literal dozens on your lunchbreak). That shortness applies to their value as teaching tools as well.
These videos don’t teach cooking—they teach the steps to specific recipes without the explaining the concepts behind them. There is little one can learn from pressing dough into an apple that can be transposed to another dish. There is little one can do to experiment, outside of possibly violating other fruits (pears might be okay). While it’s easy to mock Buzzfeed for such, I fear that this is representative of a bigger trend; as people spend less time in the kitchen learning techniques from their parents or grandparents, America is slowly losing its culinary heritage. This will doubtlessly seem like a proclamation that the sky is falling, but I fear the loss of arguably the best parts of the American melting pot.
Something tells me that there are dishes your family brought here that beat the pants off of cheeseburger ranch stroganoff.
Oh well, this is all still a good deal for Pillsbury. •