I downloaded TikTok for the same reasons most sad millennials did, thinking that the app would be a nice temporary source of serotonin. That was months ago and after even posting a few videos myself, I’m on TikTok fairly often now. I’m not here to discuss how it’s an app run by the Chinese government that may or may not be spying on me or the ethics (or lack thereof) when it comes to user data but I am here to talk about food waste.
Yes, I said food waste.
There’s one TikTok user that regularly “reviews” (I say this very loosely) who regularly goes to Dollar Tree and picks out items that you basically know can’t be good at a dollar store like steak or frozen meals and snacks; really the whole thing is obnoxious but he always claims they’re bad and then sprays them down with silly string. It’s a whole bit and the entire time I’m watching this video and quickly realizing that I am not in the age demographic to find videos like this funny I had a thought: this is incredibly disrespectful and wasteful. I have been dollar store food broke (I’m not here to wax poetic about my troubles) and for many Americans who are facing financial troubles now during the actual damn pandemic outside; for some Dollar Tree steak is a valid way to feed your family.
However, it wasn’t just an immature Gen Z kid that got me thinking about how much goes to waste for the sake of clout on the social internet. I’ve been watching crush it videos, as well. For those that don’t spend time on strange sections of the internet: crushing videos with a subsection of shredding videos are videos in which items are crushed by a hydraulic press, destroyed in a wood chipper or blender: basically just items are destroyed. Yes, I promise I’m well-adjusted. I’m fine with some items being destroyed, sometimes it’s damn near beautiful to watch items be crushed or shredded but it took me noticing several watermelons enter a wood chipper to remember that those could have gone to a family or something.
I thought initially that I was just getting old but then I remembered that this has been a thought lingering in the back of my mind for a little while now when it comes to being on social media. I could usually rationalize it because a majority of the food channels I follow are test kitchens or at least the cooking divisions of major media companies. Buzzfeed gives their food to employees since their campus is so large. The Bon Appetit Test Kitchen (which I am not going to talk about in more depth because yes, I am aware of their drama and that is not what I’m here to talk about today) has an entire gaggle of very eager gourmets to eat whatever experiment Brad has fermenting in Fermentation Station. But this restraint and reuse flies in the face of the Internet I grew up on that included a little show called Epic Meal Time. Yes, I was one of those Internet goblins. For those that don’t know of this obscure piece of Internet History: Epic Meal Time included a bunch of Canandian dudebros turned “chefs” and made copious amounts of food using mostly fast food, bacon, cheese, fast food sauces and booze into what can only be described as monstrities of food including a Human Centipede-inspired pig dish, sushi made with candy, giant (truly giant) burgers stuffed with all sorts of fauna: but the show’s scale was always fascinating to me. Watching these dudes order hundreds of burgers or hundreds of fries, clear out a shelf of bacon at the grocery store was entertaining when I was in college and had nothing better to do with my time but as the show went on and I grew older, I just couldn’t help but think of all the better places these resources could go to. Sure, they always had lots of people (mostly “babes”) there to eat the food along with other dudebros but for the amount of money spent on copious amounts of fast food…probably several starving families could be fed.
Food photography is a science, more like magic, if I had to be honest. Painting on grill marks and using probing cameras to get every single nearly pornographic angle of milk being poured of fruit being sliced. Many of the things done to make food its most tantalizing ruin it for human consumption like puring wood glue over pancakes to mimic syrup or floating cereal on paste to keep it from getting soggy and as commercials also need to be viral and as fast moving as the next Tweet; they all have to be done exceedingly well and quickly thus upping the amount of food that doesn’t go anywhere but the trash all to get the so-called money shot of a burger that looks nothing like it’s advertised.
I’m far from advocating for a radical redesign of how the social web approaches food waste and overconsumption. I’m not a saint, either. I have been guilty of food waste. I have a picky appetite and like food to be a nearly sensual experience, which means that I am selective and don’t mind paying more for something I really enjoy. Paying more for fancy mustard is not fixing the world’s food waste issue.
I am contributing to the problem; I am aware of that. And if you twisted my arm, I still take in a decent amount of the very content that I just several hundred words complaining about. I still like crush-it videos or watching people make impossible cakes of impossible items. I still like those kinds of videos and it’s absolutely okay if you do, too. No one has an easy fix for this and if they do; well, I have several questions.
I just found that the older I get and the more aware I am of the world outside of myself, it’s gotten a little harder to stomach some of these egregious crimes against food and wanton destruction of resources.