I don’t consider myself a master chef, or even a very fine-tuned one, but following a recipe and coming up with a delicious meal is my jam. That said, I’m always looking for new recipes to try out, which means my social feeds are filled with accounts spouting off snacks, dinners and brunches all day long.
You know the ones I’m talking about -- Buzzfeed’s Tasty, Delish, Food Insider, etc. They specialize in short, 60-ish second clips of recipe tutorials, and because they’re usually set to auto-play, they suck me right in. Suddenly it’s been 20 minutes and I’ve been watching someone make towering ice cream sundaes all the while. Will I ever actually save these videos or make the foods? Honestly, it’s unlikely. But simply watching the classic aerial view of faceless hands on high-speed whipping up these recipes is mesmerizing.
Well, for the same reason cooking and baking are stress-relievers in and of themselves, watching cooking and baking provides that same comfort. Everything you see in these videos is controlled, precise and predictable; you know that a cake will come out of that oven when the baker combines exact measurements of flour, eggs and milk. And it’s going to look pretty.
Plus, watching them do it allows you to imagine that you can do it. While watching someone else cook, you’re lulled into a kind of contentment where you tell yourself you could do that, too, but you don’t have to right now. Eventual satisfaction = current satisfaction, I guess.
It’s kind of along the same lines as to why people who don’t even like to cook are obsessed with cooking shows; it’s all about the vicarious consumption. The idea of the food -- which we collectively love -- is much more calming than actually cooking. Even those who wouldn’t be caught dead with a wooden spoon in their hand can appreciate the process, since they’re not the one doing it.
Now, with social media, you don’t even have to turn on the TV to get that same fulfillment. It’s instant --and quick -- gratification, being able to simply pause scrolling and watch a minute or two of making-it-look-easy cooking. Plus, you don’t have to watch any boring prep or measuring.
When all is said and done, food taps into all of our senses at once and makes us nostalgic, since it’s almost always linked to memory. Food just makes people feel good.