First, the woman empties a large can of nacho cheese onto a white kitchen cabinet.
The contents ooze out of the can and pool on the counter. That’s when she cheerfully plunges a hand in the yellow mound of cheese and begins spreading it around.
Facebook user Taylor Watson posted a video of herself making nachos on her kitchen counter to the social media platform a month ago and the video has been watched 15.2 million times. It also created a viral sensation on Twitter, while triggering intense reactions from viewers.
“This just grossed me out,” said Dawn Schrandt, assistant library director at James Kennedy Public Library in Dyersville, Iowa.
In the video, Watson dumps ground beef, lettuce, black beans and sour cream in horizontal lines on the cheese. There’s no plate or platter. Just a kitchen counter. She then blends the ingredients together into a heaving mass, scattering crushed tortilla chips into the mix, before scooping it into stiff tortilla cone — like ice cream.
Schrandt said the scooping into the cone part didn’t contribute to the gross-out factor of the video.
“It was the dumping all the ingredients on your counter and mixing it up part,” she said. “Mixing all the ingredients on your countertop is just for show. No cook wants to make that big of a mess in their kitchen if they don’t have to. You can do the same thing in a bowl and with a spoon and not make a huge disgusting mess.”
Schrandt’s library colleague, Kim Benton, described sight of the counter nachos as “a vomitous pile of pseudo-food.”
“I wouldn’t feed my dog that mess,” she said. “This is a stunt.”
The pandemic has kept people at home more than normal, and with time on their hands, some have resorted to sharing food-preparation videos.
One popular video shows a man using a beer can to hollow out a ground beef patty to place macaroni and cheese inside. Another shows a woman emptying cans of Spaghetti-Os into a pie crust and topping it off with buttered bread she flattened with her fists.
“These dishes are not really a normal dish,” said Abby Spiegel, program coordinator for the Buy. Eat. Live Healthy program for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Spiegel’s program is a free nutrition course for families on a limited income with children younger than 19 or women expecting a child.
“It’s a series of classes for adults showing participants how to choose nutritious foods, save money and handle food safely,” Spiegel said.
Her curriculum doesn’t include mixing ingredients by hand on a kitchen countertop.
“The most outrageous parts of the videos is that they don’t wear gloves and they use their hands,” Spiegel said.
Spiegel credits the need for some pandemic-era laughs for the proliferation of the sometimes-outrageous clips making the viral rounds.
“You have to laugh, and some of the videos are just people lightening up,” Spiegel said. “People are stuck at home and they need more levity. I share them with people all the time. It’s so funny and so outrageous.”
The videos certainly get people talking.
Schrandt saw the Spaghetti-Os pie video and said, “No, just no.”
“In the time it took for her to make that Spaghetti-Os pie, she could have made actual spaghetti and garlic bread,” Schrandt said. “If you like baked spaghetti, which this is a riff on, there are plenty of recipes for that as well that don’t use Spaghetti Os and smashed white bread.”
Other popular videos seem more intent on providing useful ideas to spruce up a menu.
Television cook and YouTube personality Sam Zien, known as Sam the Cooking Guy, has posted a number of popular food-preparation videos.
In one, a detailed look at making grilled burgers stuffed with macaroni and cheese, the key step in preparation is the use of a beer can in the center of a ball of seasoned ground beef.
Other popular videos offer views of potentially appetizing dishes, but something informal in the preparation catches the eye more effectively than the end result.
A video on Facebook shows a woman combining cookies, condensed milk, whipped cream and chocolate cake mix. So far, so good — but all of the mixing is done with her bare hands.
“The use of her hands to mix everything is for show,” Schrandt said. “She is creating a bigger mess by not using utensils and she gets it all over the side of the pan. Also, the fact that she keeps licking her fingers, then continuing on with the recipe without washing up, is gross.”