The commenters on a recipe for Greek-yogurt veggie dip are tearing each other apart.
The recipe is simple enough. In the style that Tasty has become known for — sped-up, sub-one-minute videos, in which an overhead shot shows two disembodied hands creating a dish — the viewer learns that Greek-yogurt veggie dip requires only 11 ingredients and very little prep. A bowl of dip is set in the center of a ring of vegetables and gets its final flourish: a generous sprinkle of dried onion. Eight million people have watched this 38-second clip for Greek-yogurt veggie dip, but it seems like almost half of them have something, whether whiny or constructive, to say about it.
A commenter points out that the true Greek name for this dip is tzatziki, but below him, another laments, “Yogurt is not greek but Turkish! Yogurt is a Turkish contribution to the world, even the word Yogurt is Turkish. Greeks claim everything.” Someone else notes that the yogurt simply comes in a container labeled Greek, so it’s the brand’s fault, not Tasty’s. Even further down, a complaint is lodged that real tzatziki is made with cucumbers. This Greek-yogurt veggie dip, the recipe for which is posted in the video’s comments with Tasty’s signature all-caps, vaguely threatening style (“FULL RECIPE”; “PIN IT FOR LATER”), is causing people a great deal of anguish. But I can’t get enough of it. I scroll, read, and grin with glee.
I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time watching Tasty videos (self-described as “snack-sized videos and recipes you’ll want to try”) on Facebook, and I’m not slowing down. I like to cook, and I love to eat even more, but that’s not what draws me to the recipe videos for dishes like chicken Caesar pasta salad or root-beer pie. The clips are akin to ASMR videos: They tap into the pleasure center of my brain with their mesmerizing simplicity, lack of fussiness, and quick pace. They make cooking seem painless, sedative. In a sea of free-flowing content hitting my already-scattered brain (often without my asking), Tasty videos act as calming one-minute meditations. Is this what they mean by mindfulness? Because, if so, I’m mindful as hell. The delightful drama of the Tasty commenter community is just a symptom of how many other people the videos have sucked in.
The large majority of Tasty’s videos — which are made by BuzzFeed Motion Pictures — are filmed in Los Angeles, while videos for their companion British recipe offshoot, Proper Tasty, are shot in London. Tasty Demais, the Brazilian site, launched in February and already has over 1 million likes. Andrew Gauthier, executive producer for BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, told me over email that the process for what to shoot isn’t especially complicated. “Oftentimes a producer will make a new recipe for their family over the weekend, and then come in on Monday excited to make the video and share the dish with the world,” he explained. “Once we’ve arrived at a final recipe, a video can be shot and edited in as little as a day.”
That quick turnaround yields overwhelming results. Tasty is barely a year old — it launched at the end of last July — but has since amassed almost 50 million Facebook fans, and, as of the beginning of this year, more than 84 million comments. The view count is even more astounding: Since Facebook switched over to an autoplay feed, where videos shared by your friends begin to stream without your hitting play, Tasty has racked up 8 billion views and counting.
The autoplay is part of what drew me into BuzzFeed Tasty in the first place. So many people were sharing these videos in my feed that I couldn’t look away. Inevitably, the Zen-like state that they put me in — who doesn’t like to see a task go from start to finish in under one minute — caused me to seek them out myself in times of panic or desperation. They are the basic salve to all ills. I may never make chocolate galaxy bark, but it helped me not lose my mind on Monday. In fact, I’ve never made any of the dishes on Tasty’s site, and I probably never will. To me, that’s not the point.
Gauthier believes the Tasty videos tap into something very direct in human nature. “So much of what we do on social platforms is about connecting with friends and family, making plans, documenting experiences, and sharing things we love,” he told me. “And food is connected to all of those things. From family dinners to date nights to brunches with friends, food is just naturally something people share, so it makes sense that people would be excited to share food videos.”
The recipe, so to speak, for what makes a Tasty video is easy: “Most Tasty videos fall in the 30-second-to-70-second range,” Gauthier said. “It’s really more about keeping things moving than keeping things short.” And that notion, as simple as it seems, is exactly the crux of the videos’ success: In an age in which content overload is a real fear, and when much of that content is horrifying (particularly in an election year), the appeal of the Tasty video is that it’s mindless, fast, and short. A Tasty video’s impression on your life is non-invasive. A Tasty video is not asking you to vote for someone. It just wants you to enjoy the image of a plate of ratatouille boats.
Like the Facebook pages of celebrities, ones where fans repeatedly demand that they “come to Brazil,” Tasty’s commenters are unashamed of public commenting. But on, say, Adrian Grenier’s Facebook page, the fans are there for a single purpose. Tasty, a much larger and more diverse entity, is a populist free-for-all. And the comments — from the pissed-off to the complimentary to the helpful — represent the range of human emotion, laid bare and messy and instinctive. Few commenters seem to understand that the Tasty video is not going to respond, but perhaps for them, like me, the intimate connection to the videos is good enough.
After brushing aside the political commentary, useless status updates, pictures of lonely people fishing for likes, and eager yet hollow braggadocio, all I want out of social media is a little bit of harmless, digestible entertainment that is gone before I even have a chance to think too much about it. Simple tasks — like watching someone make a homemade tater-tot breakfast bake — are incredibly gratifying in a chaotic world, even if we’re only watching. And occasionally throwing our valuable two cents into the void.
“All dishes of the world are delicious!!” a placating commenter on the Greek-yogurt dip notes. “But the Greek are the most healthy! thanks for this video!!!” Thanks for this video, indeed, Tasty. I plan on watching it over and over again.