In the age of freakshakes, sky-high doughnut burgers and 3D coffee art, Instagram likes and video views arguably have more currency than actual flavour and technique in the world of food.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with bold experimentation in the realm of food, the people driving the wacky trends that champion (caloric and financial) excess tend to gloss over some fairly prickly issues in the pursuit of the perfect photo or video – issues like food waste and cost per dish, to name two. At a certain point, seemingly innocuous food trends actually become damaging – to the little guy who’s losing business to younger, social-media-savvy competitors, to the quality and nutritional value of ingredients, and (if you’re someone who’s downing a freakshake a week) to the consumer, too.
This video by Eater NY, based on footage by Anders Husa, depicts a Swedish restaurant (Restaurant Rot, in Romakloster, Sweden) cooking fish with molten glass might just be the epitome of a food fad that’s been taken too far. In it, a team of chefs collaborating with the Big Pink glass studio form a ‘platter’ with 1100˚C celsius molten glass, and use it to cook flounder that's been wrapped in five layers of wet newspaper.
Real talk: have these guys heard of ovens?
The video raises quite a few questions: how can they be bothered? What happens to all the glass once the fish is cooked? How likely is it that the flounder will be served completely shard-free? And – the big one – does molten glass fish really taste any different to say, steamed fish?
Through the power of the Internet, the video has amassed 11 million views, but (also through the power of the Internet) a quick scroll through the comments proves that many people are perplexed, bemused and, in some instances, downright angry.
“My God, people are just starving for attention,” one commenter says.
“I imagine the fish tastes a tad like newsprint.” An excellent point.
And finally, in a concise summary, one Facebook user simply says: “this is absurd.”
Absurd indeed. Not only is cooking with molten glass a labour-intensive process, it’s also probably the least energy-efficient method of cooking out there. Take it from this glass-blowing professional:
Worryingly, it’s not just the Swedes who seem to be taking up the glass-cooking mantle.
There are people cooking bacon with glass:
And pizza with glass:
Put aside for a moment the fact that these videos are oddly satisfying to watch. It’s a concerning development at a time when food businesses will go to extreme lengths to build their online profile. In a chicken-or-egg scenario, the more ‘likes’ these businesses receive for doing totally outlandish things on Instagram or Facebook, the more pressure they'll feel to one-up themselves each time. Today it’s cooking with molten glass – what will happen tomorrow?
Particularly for a consumer, it can be tricky to navigate through this brave new world. Our advice? Stick with steamed fish, because it probably tastes the same anyway.