Bathroom Food Is The Latest Social Media Fascination

On TikTok and Twitter, posts about toiletside cuisine regularly go viral.

Life is a study in opposing forces: olive oil and vinegar will always separate, two magnets will always repel each other, and food will never, ever belong in the bathroom. After all, the bathroom is a minefield of particulates, gases, forbidden waters, and, of course, bacterial residue from the golden throne. Most of us understand implicitly that what occurs in the bathroom and what occurs in the kitchen are two different universes, and never the two shall meet. Yet in recent years, social media has begun toying with this most unholy combination to fascinating—and frightening—results.

Advertisement

While there's nothing strictly wrong with food in the bathroom (as long as no one is actively engaged on the toilet), that doesn't mean we should all wholeheartedly embrace the practice. Indeed, its taboo hits a raw emotional nerve; think of the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer prepares salad while showering and later serves it to Elaine and her coworker. Or the Nathan For You episode where a restaurant advertises a liberal bathroom use policy to attract clientele.

But the social media ecosystem has obliterated just about every taboo, and from the twin toilets of the internet known as Twitter and TikTok, a ghastly emanation has arisen to challenge the conventional wisdom about food's place in the bathroom.

Advertisement

Shower oranges, bathroom steak, and Kourtney Kardashian

It began innocuously enough. On the tamer side of things, TikTok's dubious health and wellness community sparked a fresh conversation early last year around the longstanding practice of eating oranges in the shower. This was mostly a vibes thing; even though citrus smells great in the steam (perhaps even complementing fragrant shampoos and conditioners), the actual "benefits" of a shower orange are unproven.

Advertisement

Next, Kourtney Kardashian posted an Instagram photo of a bathtub surrounded by plates of food. The ensuing negative comments from her followers spurred Padma Lakshmi to defend Kardashian by coining the term "bath picnic." In fairness, I don't really see the need for any uproar over a bath picnic if it's taking place in such a regularly sanitized locale as a Kardashian bathroom.

But then there's the Twitter user gazpachomachine, who since late 2022 has created a running log of different meals he eats while showering. His short reviews of each meal are awesome: Simple foods without overpowering smells are usually the best; sometimes the food gets soggy; and sometimes the food falls in the shower. A high point in his work is when he got TV personality Stephen A. Smith to discuss the merits of a shower Tomahawk steak. Taken together, the Shower Food project is a gonzo work of absurdist comedy.

Advertisement

In an email exchange with The Takeout regarding the gross-out factor of his bit, gazpachomachine, who goes by Gaz, lends credence to the critics. "Lots of people think it's gross and usually say something like 'there are poop articles all over your bathroom,'" Gaz said. "While true, it's not like I'm using the bathroom right before I eat... But of course it's kind of gross, but that's the fun of it I suppose?"

"If eating food in the bathroom wasn't off-putting then no one would be interested in our posts," Gaz added.

But up until now, we've been talking about eating in the bathroom. To get into cooking in the bathroom is to descend ever deeper into a world untouched by wellness influencers and reality stars—one that goes against our collective instinct to keep two essential human functions separate.

TikTok is preparing food toiletside

A viral TikTok posted in December 2022 shows someone cooking big-batch ramen in the bathtub. While the creator of the video presumably saw the bathtub as a really big cooking vessel, most viewers focused on possibilities like the slimy residue of soap scum and all the feet that have gripped the wet acrylic. And if that bothers you, do not under any circumstances watch the TikTok video of someone straining pasta into a toilet bowl.

Advertisement

The most infamous TikTok bathroom chef is user Barfly7777, an affable guy with a long salt-and-pepper beard and an affinity for Southern rock and Creedence Clearwater Revival. He's a road dog, with a job that has him traveling 180-200 days a year and staying in hotels. Tired of the normal options available for dinner in a place that isn't home, Barfly instead films himself cooking comfort classics like short ribs or Philly cheesesteaks—all of which come with the unholy prefix "bathroom."

One recent video, for example, shows Barfly cooking up loaded nachos, playing fast and loose with the surfaces in the bathroom. Chips right on the counter, no napkin or plate. Meat cooked directly in the sink. And no, he doesn't appear to do much of anything to sanitize his bathroom workspace before cooking. A beautiful added detail for me is the video's soundtrack: "Can't You See" by the Marshall Tucker Band. He eats the nachos while sitting on the toilet.

Advertisement

TikTok success is reserved for those who are weird in a compelling way, and Barfly's brand of unorthodox "home cooking" is exactly that. Barfly's bathroom cuisine walkthroughs regularly rack up hundreds of thousands of views, with each video acting as a provocation against a puritanical society unwilling to accept that a great meal can be prepared toiletside.

Barfly claims not to have put much thought into his chosen sobriquet, yet it's instructive to understanding his whole deal. He picked it because of his love for the 1987 movie of the same name starring Mickey Rourke, based on the gutter adventures of poet Charles Bukowski. The movie does mirror Barfly's TikTok shtick, in a way: It's a celebration of low culture, finding humor and originality in the gross and the profane.

"It's not like I just said, 'The shitter is a great place to cook,'" Barfly tells The Takeout. "The reason I went to the bathroom in the first place is to get the big fan in there. Otherwise, you're setting off fire alarms and all that kind of stuff."

But the wider internet audience can always be relied upon to overlook a creator's self-awareness in posting the joke, and Barfly's bathroom videos are indeed engineered to create uproar.

Advertisement

"I mean, I am cooking in the shitter—the ick I can understand," he says. "When you're editing, you find shots that you can just tell... a stray hair on a piece of chicken that normally you're working so fast in the kitchen you wouldn't even notice. But when you're editing and notice it you think, 'Well, how can I work this in?' just to make it more ick. And it's just a hair, but it drives people insane. So, yeah, you're working on their emotions."

The videos have even made Barfly a small list of enemies, including Delta Airlines ("I'm on the no-fly list," he said). This came after a video in which he cooked "Mile High Garlic Shrimp & Mash" in an airplane bathroom, an idea so insane and bad that it's frankly commendable. The cramped quarters, the awful lighting, and the visual of a man going into an airplane bathroom with a battery, a thermometer, and assorted kitchen contraptions that could easily be read as a homemade bomb—it's no wonder the video has 3,141 comments and counting.

The second enemy is hotel workers, who are likely well aware of the perverse cooking happening in Barfly's bathroom. He's understandably wary of how his increasing online popularity might affect his ability to find lodging: "Yeah, that freaks me out," he said. "I change my appearance the best I can every time I check in. Hair really combed, no hat, a nice little ponytail. I'll take my glasses off."

Advertisement

But we all must make sacrifices for our art, and Barfly's work goes beyond gross-out gimmicks. "I think it's shock value, sure, but it's not pure shock value. Creators who are just shocking don't get anywhere. They're not drawing people in, they're not telling a story. I look at it as making a one-minute movie. I usually have at least 50 different shots. It's got a start and a finish, good sequences, good music, fast-paced editing. I'm trying to give people a little piece of art, a little piece of something to talk about."

So what about the obvious health concerns of, say, scratch-made toiletside pizza dough?

"There's bullshit everywhere," Barfly says. "For 16 years I was a funeral director, an embalmer. I've embalmed over 7,000 people, so I've been around more ick than just about anybody. If you put the world under a microscope, you're gonna find some kind of filth, so I don't stress it too much. If it's cooked and it's past a certain temp, there's nothing living. We're more resilient than you think."

Recommended

Advertisement