By now, you have probably seen the instructional video walking you through a recipe for a deep-fried barbecue chicken “pizzadilla.” It was published on August 1 by Twisted, a UK-based, Tasty-esque food site, but began going viral late last week after Twitter user @_kurlykay tweeted the video with the evocative caption “okay but I just wanna know WHY?????” Which, same.
okay but I just wanna know WHY????? pic.twitter.com/BF49YX2jyc— khaltkom (@_kurlykay) August 23, 2019
The recipe involves layering shredded chicken in a springform pan with cheese and tortillas, chilling and slicing the pie into wedges, deep frying them, and then covering them with tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. And then you serve it with ranch sauce. It’s... a lot, and according to People’s food editor Shay Spence, it is both structurally untenable and “one of the most vile things [he’s] ever eaten.” But even those who did not dare to try it couldn’t help but lose their goddamn minds over how absurd the recipe is. It is “horrifying.” It goes “on and on forever.” And it’s possibly a parody?
The problem is it’s hard to tell, because overhead recipe videos have risen in absurdity to the point where, compared to some things out there, this actually feels tame.
According to Tom Jackson, co-head at Twisted, the recipe was made in earnest. “All of our recipes are slightly outlandish in one way or another but we couldn’t have predicted the impact this particular one has had,” he said, admitting “not all of our recipes are as crazy as this.” But just looking at Twisted’s other offerings, the Pizzadilla pales in comparison to the Giant Jalapeno Popper Chicken Burger and the Sloppy Joe Cheesesteak Pizza Volcano, two concoctions dreamed up by an AI machine fed 1,000 Denny’s menus and then asked to do Mad Libs. Twisted is also part of a much larger recipe video industry. There’s everything Epic Meal Time does, like making a 50-pound “BBQ Twinkie” or something called “Jack Daniels Donut Lasagna.” And of course there’s Tasty, a division of BuzzFeed that turned the overhead recipe video into an art form, and which currently has a Cheddar Bacon Ranch Bowl Burger on their homepage.
With an abundance of truly ridiculous recipes out there, why did the Pizzadilla go viral? Though some have suggested the length of the video, at 2:20 it’s actually shorter than most recipes (the Pizza Volcano is over three minutes). And though we don’t know the calorie count, it does not seem like it’d be fattier or more sodium-filled than Tasty’s Bacon Chicken Alfredo Lasagna Roll, nor would it require more steps to make. Indeed, a few people have suggested that if you were scandalized by the Pizzadilla, you haven’t been paying attention.
My theory is that the Pizzadilla falls into the uncanny valley of recipe videos; it’s something too absurd to make, but not absurd enough that nobody would ever make it. On one extreme, you have Epic Meal Time’s 100-pound bacon sandwiches, which exist to watch someone else flirt with death. On the other extreme, you have Tasty’s and Bon Appetit’s actually helpful, instructional videos about things like sausage and broccoli pasta or banana bread. And in between you have things like the Pizzadilla, something labor intensive and hedonistic, but that you might also want to try. It can’t be harder to make than a croissant, and honestly, what’s the real difference between a deep fried chicken quesadilla and anything on a stick at the Iowa State Fair?
The problem is it’s not absurd enough. The problem is it’s too close to normal. The problem is we don’t like that we want it. This particular recipe might be gross, but imagine your favorite chicken quesadilla, fried and coated in even more cheese. If you had some spare time on your hands and liked to try things out in the kitchen, you’d make that. And if you saw that on the table at a party, you’d eat that! But instead of admitting that we’ve gotten to the point where a Pizzadilla is mid-level silly compared to the food videos out there, we call it the bleeding edge to avoid having to admit that it’s our tastes and wants that have made a Pizzadilla a centrist option.
There will be another video like this at some point. There will be more combinations of foods that we say out loud are abominations, but internally wish we could taste. Let’s just admit that we willed the Pizzadilla into existence, and that there should be no guilt in wanting it.