There are many points at which one’s understanding of reality could conceivably start to slip while watching a stranger on the internet construct a pie out of Spaghetti-Os. It could be when the cook, a young woman named Janelle Elise Flom, holds up her container of garlic powder to the camera in the exact same way that YouTube makeup artists introduce a lip gloss. It could be when she adds a splash of milk, to make things “juicy.” For me, it is when she uses her forearms to mash butter and granulated garlic into slices of bread that will form the pie’s top crust, and then lets her arms slip unwashed back into the sleeves of her pristine white sweater.
At first, the video—which has been watched more than 43 million times on Facebook and Twitter over a couple of weeks—lulls you into a false sense of security. The scene is overwhelmingly normal. Flom, dressed casually and with beach-waved hair, stands at a stone-topped island in a kitchen straight out of a freshly flipped HGTV house, looking like the kind of mildly famous social-media influencer who attracts an audience by recommending quick family dinners. Then she dumps canned pasta directly into a frozen pie crust.
When you see anything online, it is prudent to ask yourself at least one question before committing to a reaction: Is this a joke? From the Spaghetti-Os pie video alone, it’s hard to know. I reached out to Flom, but she didn’t respond. I watched the video again and again, looking for details that would make it clear whether people on Twitter, who were largely taking it at face value, were getting trolled. Flom plays the scene totally straight, discussing the pie in the buoyant, slightly conspiratorial tone of someone demonstrating a life hack, but she doesn’t cut or taste the pie once it comes out of the oven—is that a tell? I had seen worse food videos. Had I seen worse food videos?