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Is Cold Gravy TSA Approved? Chrissy Teigen Finds Out

The cookbook author’s airport saga is a reminder of the arbitrariness of TSA’s food rules

Gravy and mashed potatoes.
Gravy and mashed potatoes.
Photo: hypervel/Flickr

At what point is a liquid considered a solid? The laws of physics say one thing, but the TSA plays by its own rules: “Any item that you can pump, squeeze, spread, smear, spray or spill” qualifies as a liquid.

So what about, say, gravy that has congealed into a solid, immobile block that looks like it could take someone out with one well-aimed whack? Cookbook author, television host, Twitter personality, and multi-hyphenate extraordinaire Chrissy Teigen put that question to the test, tweeting on Tuesday a video of the gravy in question, accompanied by: “let’s play ‘is cold gravy tsa approved’”

The answer, it turns out, is a resounding no — unless the gravy is mixed with mashed potatoes (because who brings gravy onto a plane without the accompanying spuds?)? Teigen followed up with a video of herself doing exactly that, using what appears to be a tube of Lucas’ Papaw ointment to shovel now-spreadable-looking gravy — which Teigen described as a copycat version of Popeye’s Cajun recipe — into a tub of mashed potatoes.

The whole affair raises several questions about the apparent arbitrariness of TSA’s rules dictating what foods can and can’t be carried past the airport security checkpoint. According to the agency’s online guide, solid cheese is allowed, while more than 3.4 ounces of creamy cheese is not; similarly, chocolate is allowed in unlimited quantities as long as it’s solid, but limited to 3.4 ounces once any of it becomes liquid, which could theoretically happen after just one car ride in a hot trunk.

Fresh eggs, meanwhile, are allowed freely, despite being entirely fluid inside the shell. Salad dressing, oil, vinegar, and salsa are limited to 3.4 ounces, but sandwiches — which, if it’s a good sandwich, is surely dressed with some kind of flavorful liquid — face no restrictions. Pies are fine, but what about the kinds with custard, mousse, or juice-dripping fruit fillings? And let’s not forget that scenario not infrequently seen in airports: tomato sauce in a standalone jar is a no-go, but dump it into a bowl of spaghetti, and it’s given the VIP solid treatment.

You could tweet these life-or-death inquiries at the TSA’s account for some guidance, but ultimately, according to the agency, the final decision rests with the TSA officers at the security checkpoint. When in doubt, perhaps the safest route is to take a cue from Chrissy Teigen and always pack a side of mashed potatoes (which are … also pumpable, squeezable, spreadable, and smearable??) with which to mix all the food items that are deemed too fluid on the liquid-solid spectrum.

Disclosure: Chrissy Teigen is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.