Food YouTube is the best YouTube: 6 channels to watch while you’re cooped up
Consuming food content online has become an escape for many of us during quarantine. While we all know Brad, Claire and the gang, there’s a universe of stuff out there you might not have seen. (You can, of course, watch some premium content on the Food team’s very own YouTube page by clicking here!) Here’s how I’ve been occupying my time:
Water trickles pastorally off of the tips of cut bamboo stalks. A gentle breeze sways the branches of a grove of trees as a Chinese flute plays softly in the background. It’s just a day in the life of Li Ziqi, who may be the most famous YouTuber you haven’t heard of.
The phenomenally popular Chinese food blogger, with almost 10 million YouTube subscribers and 24 million followers on Sina Weibo, posts almost fairy-tale-like videos of her life in rural Sichuan — chatting with her grandmother, foraging, cooking rustic, positively perfect-looking food, and also maybe wearing a giant red cape and riding through the forest on horseback.
In a country where millions are packed into smoggy, rapidly growing cities, the rise of Li’s popularity is understandable. Her videos may be overly bucolic, but that’s the idea. Surroundings are lush, foliage is a deep emerald green. Every ingredient she needs, she magically finds growing in abundance. For someone who’s constantly cooking and foraging, Li stays astoundingly clean. And the food looks incredible. Crayfish, congee, roasted lamb, mapo tofu, homemade beer — there’s seemingly nothing she can’t do. The soap opera-like muzak is so smooth, it irons the wrinkles out of your brain. It’s pretty ideal quarantine watching. Start with her luosifen video — rice noodles with river snails.
SHIP, Stop Motion Cooking
We’re all doing a lot more cooking during quarantine, and we all need a little more whimsy in our lives. The stop-motion cooking channel SHIP has only five videos, but each is a beautifully depicted, cleverly shot rendition of a particular food item — burgers, pizza, Caesar salad — made with common non-food items from around the house.
Start with the burger episode. It begins with the cook grinding a woman’s leather wallet into the meat for the patty and accelerates from there. “This video is not a recipe for cooking! Do not repeat, it can harm your health!” warns the caption. Apparently some people still need to be told not to put yellow plastic buttons into a frying pan?
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared
Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling’s hallucinogenic puppet show “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” isn’t food content, strictly speaking, but the main characters, Red Guy, Yellow Guy and Duck Guy have a dystopian encounter with an anthropomorphic steak and can of vegetables during the fifth episode. The “Schoolhouse Rock”-like setup, which has the main characters ostensibly learning about basic ideas like time, dreams and the Internet, quickly turns nightmarish during a lesson about healthy eating.
Using the “simple health shape,” the sinister steak teaches the main characters that eating foods like bread, aspic and white sauce are better than “fancy, show-offy foods” like fruit and vegetables. It quickly degenerates from there. If you’ve never seen the show, do yourself a favor and watch all six episodes — it takes 30 minutes and will cause you to never look at “Sesame Street” the same again.
Great Depression Cooking
Clara Cannucciari was born in Melrose Park, Ill., in 1915 to Sicilian immigrants. In her 90s, her grandson began posting videos of her cooking recipes of things that she and her family ate during the 1930s on a channel called Great Depression Cooking.
Cannucciari, who died in 2013, is a likable and engrossing host. She peppers her recipes for things like eggplant parmesan and pasta with peas, with tips for surviving the Depression (plant a garden is one). Start with her “poorman’s feast”, which has lentils and rice alongside thinly sliced meat cooked in lemon juice and olive oil.
Featureman, Tom Willett
Tom Willett, a.k.a. Featureman on Youtube, is an octogenarian who’s posted a bit of everything on his channel over the last 13 years — stock market tutorials, green screen tips, original songs — and food. A lot of food. His avuncular folksiness and let’s-grab-a-beer charm help his recipes (a few of which, admittedly, don’t look that good) transcend the audio and video quality.
In his bachelor kitchen, Willett instructs us in the preparation of things like meatloaf and a half of a cantaloupe. Interestingly, both of those things involve raisins. Start with the video titled “How to eat a cantaloupe the official tutorial Tom Willett” and take it from there. You’ll be drawn in by the wholesomeness — there’s a reason Willet has close to 240,000 subscribers. As one commenter notes, “If this is what senior life is like, I can’t wait.”
Andrea Love, Cooking with Wool
There are just a handful of videos on this channel, but the stop-motion cooking of a simple breakfast and a plate of pasta, done entirely with wool, is painstakingly detailed and utterly relaxing in its simplicity. The ASMR sound effects make the watching experience extra enjoyable.
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