What's The Deal With Pesto TikTok?

"Call me crazy if you want, but I've never liked store-bought pesto."

I'm strict with my TikTok algorithm. I will not allow for nonsense or things that do not fit in with my special interests of musical theatre, animals being funny, neurodivergence humor/diagnosis, and Summer England's relationship saga with "the neighbor." End of list. I scroll quickly past young influencers or anyone trying to become an influencer. But recently, I couldn't figure out why I was scrolling past the same woman talking about pesto over and over again, until I realized countless TikTok users were stitching her video into new ones.

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The Pesto Lady, explained

The original video starts with food influencer Susi Vidal stationed in front of a food processor. "Call me crazy if you want, but I've never liked store-bought pesto," she says, before walking viewers through a recipe for a homemade version.

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I have no particular feelings about pesto, store-bought or otherwise, at least none I want to clog my TikTok feed with. So I scrolled past her video after the first sentence. But after seeing it so many more times, I let the videos play.

They all start with Susi saying her now famous line—"Call me crazy if you want, but I've never liked store-bought pesto"—and then someone else cuts in with their own video, acknowledging the stitched clip with some sardonic variation of, "Yeah, that's so crazy! Anyway..." or "Susi, I can't top that, but I do have a crazy story of my own." Then each user proceeds to recount the craziest thing that has ever happened to them.

These response videos come in a few varieties. People often tell a story about someone or something else "crazy," like this tale of a middle school production of Annie with a very disgruntled and vengeful member of the ensemble. There are also "crazy" stories more tangentially related to the person in the video, such as the discovery that a weird smell coming from the apartment next door turned out to be a corpse. Then there are the admissions of crimes, either youthful indiscretions or more serious ones. Often there are revenge stories. On and on it goes, and none of it has to do with pesto. Except when Noodles & Company gets involved.

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But why? Why is a pesto meme all over TikTok?

By creating a simple and delicious pesto that can be used on just about anything, Vidal was putting her own spin on the viral "girl dinner" trend. Excuse me, lady, but girl dinner is just a random assortment of ingredients gathered from around my house at 8 p.m. and eaten in a nest on my couch while I watch Our Flag Means Death. It does not involve my food processor, a machine that must be cleaned after each use. So these pesto videos are actually a trend within a trend, a turducken of virality.

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There's no single reason the pesto video has blown up across TikTok. We love people who seem "real" like Elyse Myers (6.9 million followers) and who make their various confessions directly to the camera, appearing to be in their most casual state: at home, on the couch, in comfy clothes, etc., and any videos that feed our desire for authenticity will win out—especially ones that promise a wild and crazy tale. TikTok's ability to engender parasocial relationships with these "regular" people is perhaps a holdover from the early days of the pandemic, when our only means of communication with the outside world was through our screens. That's exactly when TikTok saw its meteoric rise.

Hearing these "crazy" stories and trying to one-up each new stitch is the quintessential TikTok experience. Vidal just happened to say the exact wrong right thing at the right time to set it all in motion. If anyone tries making her pesto, let us know if it's crazy good.

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