This article is part of Watching YouTube, a Slate series about YouTube.
Most humans love snacks—so much so that Slate just happens to be publishing a pop-up blog about the topic right now. When it comes to food of the “junk” persuasion—your doughnuts, your pizza pies, your various “Cool Ranch” products—people of all shapes and sizes want to make it, eat it, discuss it, and (crucially, for our purposes) watch videos that involve making, eating, and discussing it.
Snack porn—the fetishization of and indulgence in thoroughly unhealthy foodstuffs—is one of YouTube’s most enduring and appealing genres. The videos currently listed on YouTube’s U.S. trending page involve, among other things, advice on how to make a giant macaron, a review of a new McDonald’s cheeseburger, a woman who drinks gin and makes peanut butter cups, and a man disguised to resemble a slice of pepperoni pizza. But snack videos are popular all over the world, not just in the United States. This fact leads me to what is perhaps my favorite variety of YouTube food porn: the fish-out-of-water snack safari.
If you’ve traveled abroad or even just visited the international foods aisle of your local supermarket, you’ve inevitably encountered unfamiliar snacks that are probably chips or candy, though you can’t be entirely sure. Depending on your personality type, these strange snacks are either intriguing or terrifying, maybe both at once. “I wonder what ‘Dairy Milk’ is? I bet it tastes like a Hershey bar. But what if it doesn’t? What if it makes me sick? I’d better not eat it.” For all we know, millions of American tourists visiting the U.K. die of starvation thanks to this precise chain of logic. For many eaters, foreign snacks are a mystery. And YouTube’s weird-snack unboxing-and-sampling videos are the solution.
People on YouTube love watching people eat and discuss unfamiliar snacks. They also love hearing foreigners’ opinions of snacks that are popular in the viewers’ home countries. The top trending video in Turkey right now, for instance, is one in which an American vlogger and adult film actor who goes by “Johnny Sins” opens and tastes a box of Turkish snack foods. “Somebody sent me this. I have a lot of fans in Turkey,” says Sins, whose recent filmography includes Naughty Bookworms 2, My Sister’s Hot Friend 48, and the episodic series Big Tits at Work.
The video features Sins sitting at a kitchen table and eating snack foods for 11½ minutes. (As dull as this might sound, it came as a bit of a relief; before watching the full clip I briefly worried that Turkish snack was actually a euphemism for something unpublishable.) “A lot of this stuff I’ve never seen before. Is that doughnuts?” he says near the beginning, holding a package labeled “Gusto” up to the camera. Eventually, he takes a bite and chews silently for several seconds with a confused and ultimately disappointed expression. “I guess it’s just fruitcake,” he decides. “It’s good. Kind of plain, though.” After another bite, he returns the Gusto to its wrapper and pushes it out of view. “I don’t think I’d eat that normally.”
The entire video goes on like this, and it’s surprisingly engaging, even though Sins is not a particularly incisive commentator. He eats, among other things, a bag of cheese-flavored snack sticks (“this reeks like processed cheese”), a croissant (“looks like a croissant”), some chocolate wafers (“tastes like a chocolate wafer”), a muffin-brownie hybrid (“pretty good, tastes like a brownie”), another bag of wafer cookies (“tastes like all wafer cookies”). Before eating most of the snacks, he looks at the package to see where they were made; they were inevitably made in Turkey or a nearby country. His best observation: “I noticed most countries have all kind of the same treats, candies. Just produced by different people.” Throughout the video, an odd panpipe-style soundtrack plays in the background. I’d like to think that this is what it sounds like 24/7 at Casa Sins.
I’m not sure why I liked this video so much. It’s simple, but appealingly so—just your normal workaday porn star eating candy and talking to the camera in the style perfected by children’s television hosts. The most popular YouTubers can pull off this style of direct address in a way that feels intimate rather than obnoxious or condescending. In real life, if you were to stop by Johnny Sins’ house only to sit and watch him eat an entire box of overseas snack foods and riff on how each item tasted, you would likely soon regret the visit, especially if he refused to share. And yet people love it. In total, the clip has amassed more than 685,000 views since it was uploaded on April 15 and is apparently more loved than anything else going on in Turkey right now. Maybe it’s just figures: People all over the world like snacks. People in Turkey seem to like Johnny Sins, at least according to Johnny Sins. Ergo, people in Turkey really like watching Sins eating snack foods.
The most successful YouTube vloggers, whether they’re taste testing unfamiliar snacks or riding in an unfamiliar elevator, know how to record and present their expressions and impressions so that it feels like the vlogger and the viewer are discovering something together at the same time. “My overall impression of Turkish treats: Turkish candy is really positive,” Sins concludes, dutifully noting that he prefers to eat foods that are natural and fresh, not packaged. “All right, well, I hope you guys liked watching me eat things. I don’t know.” They liked it a lot. Snack porn from an actual porn star. What’s not to love?