Susi Vidal, the creator of TikTok, regularly makes pesto for evening meals. She always has pasta on hand, and while she often posts videos of more elaborate creations like sun-dried tomato focaccia and ratatouille, most of the time she just wants a bowl of noodles with sauce for dinner.
So when she decided to make pesto and record for her followersshe didn’t mean that.
“Call me crazy if you want,” she said in the video, smashing cloves of garlic under a knife, “but I’ve never liked store-bought pesto.”
The same, it says on the Internet. And then some.
What started as a routine recipe video turned into a TikTok anthem of an overpowering spirit: You think that is crazy? I can do better.
Hundreds of response videos, posted mostly in the past month, take Ms. Vidal’s opening sentence about the pesto and then quickly move on to users much more dramatic stories about it spirits, bad ex, origin, bad dates and discovery unknown family membersas well as even scarier moments like being stalked.
“Susie, it’s awkward, I can’t get over it,” says Linda Hurd in an earlier video sharing a story about a quest for revenge that ultimately reveals the dark side of a classmate.
The stitches, as they’re called on TikTok, almost always end in agreeing that Mrs. Vidal was right — store-bought pesto is indeed an inferior product. She opening video has been viewed over 12 million times.
Despite initially being concerned about some negative tones in the responses, overall, “people are very supportive,” Ms. Vidal said of the TikTok trend in an interview. “I think vulnerability brings people together.”
Mrs. Vidal started making cooking videos as a hobby when she was in nursing school in Arizona during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. Her audience grew, and eventually sharing her affordable recipes on TikTok — with her signature “OnlyPans” series that fuses cooking with innuendo — became her full-time job in February.
Ms. Vidal said she tended to make videos about what she was craving in the moment.
“I know a lot of people are a little negative when they try to make their own sauces,” Ms. Vidal said, adding that many home cooks may be overwhelmed by the instructions and dishes included and instead gravitate toward the store-bought versions. She wanted to show people that they could do it with just a few ingredients.
So Ms. Vidal did what she usually does when making TikTok: she gathered her ingredients, propped up her phone, and chatted like a friend. From start to finish, filming and editing took about four to five hours, she said.
She posted the video on September 1st, and at first the viewership was about average compared to her other videos. The tone of the comments was initially catchy and witty, but then she started receiving hateful comments and TikTok users started sewing her opening line in negative ways. That didn’t bother her, she said: It comes with the territory of social media influence. But she decided not to venture.
It wasn’t until last week, more than a month after she posted her original video, that her sister told her the stitches had healed on their own. Ms. Vidal took a deep dive and noticed that the tone had changed and that there was “a lot of positivity about it,” she said.
One person who jumped at the chance to sew was Karmell Garrett, who had only been on TikTok for a month when she decided to share a very personal story from her senior year of college. This included a liquid diet, a timed final exam, and an urgent need to use the bathroom.
Ms. Garrett’s personal rule is not to post anything. “I wouldn’t want it to go viral,” she said, and the bathroom accident fit the bill after 15 years.
“For some reason this has become the modern confessional,” she said of the trend, noting that the comment box on her video was filled with similar stories. “I think it’s great, and I think it’s so crazy that the most random thing can go viral, like the plague.”
Ms Vidal said TikToks suggesting her preference for homemade pesto ranked low on the “craziness” scale was understandable. The idea of turning the phrase upside down for a trend was “really clever,” she said. “I was quite delighted that people came up with the idea.”
Eventually Mrs. Vidal herself joined in and merged the video about the first time she drank too much as a teenager and tried to hide her hangover from her parents by climbing on the roof.
Ms. Vidal said she’s looking forward to playing around with fall foods and is thinking about testing the apple pie recipe next. As for Ms. Garrett, she actually intends to go back and watch Ms. Vidal’s entire video and try the pesto recipe. She never made it from scratch.
“I agree with Susie,” she said of the store-bought pesto. “There’s never enough garlic.”