There are few things in this world more difficult than trying to find a recipe on a food blog.
First you have to scroll through the blogger's family history. You know how it goes:
"I was raised on a farm in the Midwest. My father was a quiet, sombre man, but boy did he know how to bake scones. I remember coming home from college one day to the smell of freshly-baked scones. It was then that I realised I didn't belong in college. I belonged where the scones are. "
But the kids aren't reading food blogs anymore, let alone recipe books. They're going on TikTok and scrolling through bite-sized 60-second videos to learn how to cook.
Last year people stuck at home around the world rediscovered cooking during quarantine - may we never see another loaf of banana bread again.
And the sky's the limit when it comes to what you can discover on the app, if you don't mind some mild RSI from scrolling for hours on end.
Simple food hacks started trending and created the community known as FoodTok, serving up all sorts of "recipes" from whipped coffee to a travesty known as "rasagna" - ramen lasagne. Nigella is clutching her pearls.
Granted, I can think of several recipes from "celebrity chefs" that should definitely have been TikTok hacks and not printed in an actual book - frozen grapes, anyone?
But while there's nothing wrong with learning to cook on an app, is a recipe for a two-ingredient Oreo cake really a recipe?
I decided to put some of these hacks to the test to see if they were really worth the hype.
The recipe: TikTok viral feta pasta
I pride myself on being able to whip up a delicious pasta dish from scratch, and I've been wanting to try this viral recipe for a while now. But everyone I know who's tried it has said the same thing: it's just ... feta pasta. Nothing special.
Undeterred, I tossed my block of feta and fresh cherry tomatoes (canned is another option as they're hard to come by in winter) with a dash of olive oil, some chilli flakes, salt, pepper and dried basil in an oven dish and waited for the magic to happen. The ingredients sort of boiled down into a pastel-coloured sauce which I mixed through some fresh fettuccine, adding some spinach for the #healthspo.
The results? Vastly underwhelming. But at least I have work lunches for the week. The people were right; it really is just feta pasta.
The recipe: Proffee (protein coffee)
This reminds me of the time I decided to put a sachet of Two Islands collagen into a bought flat white instead of dissolving it in the espresso shot first - it ruined my coffee.
Turns out protein powder and coffee simply do not mix well unless they are both ingredients in a shake. Instead, I get a thick, powdery caffeinated beverage that fills me with neither energy nor joy. I'll pass on this one.
The recipe: Mac and cheese in a mug
Mac and cheese has to be one of the easiest dishes to make on a stovetop, but I'm a sucker for an easy mug recipe and a fan of saving dishes so I had to give this one a whirl.
The only problem is that you can't monitor your cheese sauce to ensure it stays perfectly smooth and luxurious - the microwave curdled the sauce and undercooked the pasta. Rather than consume the resulting crusty excuse for macaroni cheese, I'll stick to my trusty stovetop method. It's a no from me.
The recipe: Two ingredient Oreo cake
I fall for the microwave mug cake scam time and again. The sheer amount of dry, overcooked "mug puddings" I have made over the years would make Mary Berry faint.
But the proof is in the pudding, and this two-ingredient microwave Oreo cake has to have gone viral on TikTok for a reason, right? So I get myself some Oreos and milk and divert them from their original purpose: crushing them up and baking in the microwave.
I do not like milk but I would rather drink an entire glass of the stuff than consume the pile of gravel that emerges from my microwave. 0/10.
The recipe: Toastie quesadillas
This. This is life changing. As a self-confessed fan of the humble cheese toastie, preferably with lashings of tomato sauce on the side (don't judge me), I didn't think this Kiwi classic could be improved upon. But I was wrong.
It turns out you can put anything in a tortilla, fold it into quarters, chuck it in your toastie maker and call it a quesadilla. I am utterly converted and will never look back. My ideal combo: guacamole, chicken, spinach, cheese and sweet chilli sauce. Voila.
In conclusion: One hit out of five viral recipes isn't bad. I'll be making use of the toastie maker at work on a regular basis now.
But FoodTok can keep their proffee Oreo pasta. I'm going to stick to scrolling Pinterest for my recipe inspiration, even if I have to read a hundred boring backstories to get to the good stuff.