It’s easy to find communities for people who like to watch TV while they eat. r/mealtimevideos is an entire subreddit dedicated to helping people do that more effectively, with videos categorized by timestamps anywhere from 5-7 minutes to 30+ minutes. The subreddit prides itself on its mantra “Click and Consume,” which would be wonderfully catchy if it weren’t also a little bit dehumanizing.
Among everything that YouTube has taught me — makeup tutorials, how to fix my bathtub drain, etc — I’ve leaned in hardest to its cooking videos. I owe it to channels like the Korean mukbang/amateur chef streamer SOF and a Japanese ghost dog chef for teaching me how to make my favorite dishes whenever I missed my mom’s cooking. But with ASMR videos gaining popularity on the platform, these personality-led cooking videos have taken a backseat to a new format: narration-less, faceless cooking.
Channels that specialize in this include the aptly titled Peaceful Cuisine, which features an “ASMR No Music Videos” playlist, and Honeykki, a master of cozy, Korean comfort foods. Her step-by-step videos are soothing and therapeutic — the antithesis of a Tasty video, which rushes through the process in 1 minute or less to get to the “money shot” (their words, not mine) — usually some form of hot cheese oozing out of a vegetable receptacle it shouldn’t be in.
These ASMR videos, which were made for viewers (and listeners) to revel in steady sounds like a knife chopping an onion against a wooden cutting board, are about the love of the craft — the journey, not the destination. (Shoutout to my high school senior quote!) They were perfect to have on in the background for when I needed a mental break at work, or when I was home, drawing and working on comics. And with the new Google Brain algorithms perfecting my YouTube feed, there was never a shortage of food-related videos I didn’t immediately click on. The world was my oyster (insert shucking clip compilation).
I conditioned myself to watch these videos nonstop. I was watching them all the time: at work, at home, even on the subway, watching downloaded Netflix episodes of Chef & My Fridge.
And then one day, I had a sobering, uncomfortable realization that I was watching a 7-minute video of a cake being baked while eating my own dinner. Immediately, I felt a wave of shame, embarrassed by my gluttony. Like how Marie Kondo felt guilty towards her bunched up socks to which she had assigned sentience, I felt apologetic towards the meal sitting between me and my laptop. "I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you,” I thought towards my plate of exploded Totino’s pizza rolls.
I made a decision in that moment to try to curb my habit of watching things while I eat. Eating while distracted felt disrespectful to my food, and the person who made my food, whether it was the good people in my Seamless delivery area, or my mom who made and rationed enough Korean food in the freezer to last six months from when she visited. Or, you know, myself. From now on, I would taste and appreciate every complexity of the meal I was eating, even if it was a 1,000-degree pizza roll.
Maybe one day there can be a subreddit for people like me, who don’t mind staring off into space in suffocating silence while chewing their food.