Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: TikTok pasta unites us with feta cheese and tomatoes

First it was “Tiger King.” Later, “The Queen’s Gambit.” Later still, a sudden onset obsession with sea “shanties.” We hopscotched from one pandemic craze to the next for a year to feel “connected” to one another if only through melting a block of feta cheese on top of some cherry tomatoes and adding noodles.

Most recently the so-called “TikTok pasta” has united us, sort of, as we cook together as a nation. Well, maybe not together. Y’all have snapped up all the 70 percent sheep’s milk Greek feta so the rest of us must make do with some off-brand feta “crumbles” that are nearly expired. Thanks ever so.

It’s progress, I guess. Remember a year ago we were stalking delivery trucks for toilet paper and “LikeLysol” wipes in the pre-dawn cold in the Dollar General parking lot. Yes, a year ago, when “Corona” was most often associated with a beer we would only drink when we had run out of water, we only had eyes for essentials, barely glancing at all those plump bars of feta we would covet in the future.

That the craze came from TikTok only makes it more appealing. Nothing funnier than hearing someone who stopped getting takeout from Asian restaurants because of the “China virus” boast of making pasta from “the TikTok.” The social media platform born in China was famously scorned by conservatives for being a setup for spying on us.

If that’s true, the only thing TikTok can confirm is that Americans love a bandwagon. How else to explain those ghastly dustbowl fashions we’re snapping up at Target?

I don’t think it’s right for TikTok, previously mostly known for dance videos and “challenges” requiring you to dunk your face in flour or drink a beer while doing a one-handed pull-up, should have all the fun. Where is the Facebook equivalent? Instagram? Twitter? I’m pretty sure Parler was cooking up something before it got shut down for being, well, horrible.

Facebook, where people you disliked in high school remind you exactly why, is mostly for older folks. So, Facebook pasta could skip the exotic, youthful ingredients of fresh tomatoes, chopped garlic and imported cheese (the TikTok demo knows nothing of reflux, bless their hearts and sturdy esophagi) in favor of something more Facebooky. Perhaps a “Let Me Tell You How Sick the Vaccine Made Me” Stew. It would be exceedingly bland, involve only pantry ingredients and is best served with a “nice, small hamburger” because, at the end of the day, that’s really all we want anymore. Facebook pasta would require little effort but you would have to post a picture so everyone could respond with “Yum!” or (and I’m not sure why this phrase always makes my skin crawl, but it does) “Nom Nom.”

Over on Instagram, it’s all about lovely pictures so it follows that Instagram Pasta would have to be photogenic first. Think squid ink rotini nestled in an earthenware bowl perched on a spruce bough in Denali National Park. Because why not? Looks are everything on Insta. They will flat scatter some pomegranate seeds on anything. Matters not they feel like mouse eyeballs in your mouth.

Twitter pasta would enjoy the angry boiling of the noodles most of all. The recipe would include lots of short, snappy bits, not all of them tasteful. Think crisp bacon lardons, frizzled capers, and plenty of bitter lemon.

Snapchat would want to play but, since it disappears like a self-destructing note in “Mission Impossible” no one would ever be able to remember the ingredients. Sigh.

I could go on but there is no time. A friend of a friend of a friend said feta blocks are due at Aldi in three, two, one…

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].

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