A polaroid of a microwave with some dubious-looking nachos, aka "stupid food," on a plate inside.
Design by Abby Schreck.

Though YouTube is filled with different channels clamoring for my attention, I have found myself falling for one man in particular. A man who, for the last two-and-a-half years, has specialized in making sausages. The seasoned fingers of YouTube channel Ordinary Sausage’s “Mr. Sausage” grind, stuff, cook and rate a different sausage two to three times a week. Mr. Sausage specializes in using uncommon ingredients such as SpaghettiOs or food-grade dirt, things that seem like flippant clickbait but end up being just as fascinating as you’d expect. He makes a whole show of it as well, singing sausage-based parodies of songs, with hits like “Don’t Fear The Sausage,” a brilliant take on Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” There’s also a section of each video called “Will It Blow,” where he blows the leftover sausage bits out of a tube. If you’re looking for more of an explanation on that part, I’m not sure I can give you one. That’s part of the beauty and mystique of Mr. Sausage.

Mr. Sausage’s videos fall into the category of “stupid food,” or meals that are too outlandish or ridiculous to be taken seriously. Random deep frying, Flamin’ Hot Cheeto coatings, topping something off with a drizzle of nuclear orange nacho cheese — these are just some of the many things that may qualify foods as “stupid.” Many of the final dishes don’t even seem fit for human consumption, which adds to the absurdity of the whole concept. These “stupid foods” fascinate me, and I often find myself indulging in watching videos like Mr. Sausage’s with equally bizarre and creative food ideas.

While the name “stupid food” doesn’t have a clear point of origin, the subreddit r/StupidFood is an anthology of dishes that help to define the term. Here, people join together to berate things like the “Deep Fried Ramen-Crusted Grilled Cheese.” Gordon Ramsay’s TikTok account is loaded with videos of stupid food as well, with Ramsay shouting in outrage at foods like “steak pizza,” which is literally cheese, pepperoni and sauce on top of a giant slab of steak. TikTok and YouTube recommend these ridiculous recipes directly to me now, letting me marvel at food abominations without someone else’s reactions. It doesn’t take long before I find myself 10 videos deep, watching someone make a pizza cake with layers of macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes.

While I do like to watch other food YouTubers — ones that people might consider “real” or “trustworthy,” like J. Kenji López-Alt or Binging With Babish — these chefs aren’t fulfilling in the same ways that the “stupid” chefs are. It feels like choosing to watch “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” over a David Attenborough nature documentary. The term “guilty pleasure” is often used to describe choices like these, but I find that I harbor no guilt over loving these stupid chefs. It’s an indulgence to watch these videos over ones that might actually teach me cooking skills, sure. But if cooking is an art, then people like Mr. Sausage are the viral modernists, creating radical food abominations that push the boundaries of edibility.

A large portion of these videos exist only for the clickbait potential — nothing makes a more intriguing thumbnail than a hamburger patty stuffed with hotdogs — but that doesn’t matter to me. My appreciation for these videos comes from that boundary pushing and the disgusting (or strangely delicious) food that comes out as a result. “Parody food” might be a better term than “stupid food” to use for these dishes. Like a Weird Al song, putting a goofy, Flamin’ Hot Cheeto spin on a recipe could yield some surprisingly hilarious results — or it could end up bending the laws of food to the point of breakage, creating a disgusting mess. Either way, it’s a process that I always find myself craving more of.

And so, reader, I encourage you to try your hand at being a stupid chef. Maybe it’s the late-night drunken nachos you cobble together using Cool Ranch Doritos and cottage cheese or a nice platter of hot dogs and hummus that sounded like a much better idea when you were hungry. Cooking is meant to be experimental, no matter the ingredients. It’s fun to play mad scientist in the kitchen, and if you don’t believe me, look at the videos I’ve cited in this article. Maybe you’ll invent a delicacy such as the Steak Boiled In Mayonnaise and find out that stupid-sounding food combination that is just wild enough to work.

Daily Arts Writer Hunter Bishop can be reached at hdbishop@umich.edu.