I recently came across an instructional video that's been circulating Twitter since this past weekend. It’s a mere 35 seconds long, a piece of sponsored content put out by the Food Network and McCormick, that begins as innocuously as possible: A man in a salmon-colored shirt instructs us on the best way to cut a watermelon. He slices it through its belly into a grid, trims its rind, sticks some skewers into it, and seasons it with some salt. So far, so good.
But the video’s denouement has been described, by turns, as "shocking," "graphic," and “a travesty,” akin to a culinary snuff film: He sprinkles it with taco seasoning.
The chef is James Briscione, one of the personalities on the Food Network’s Man Crafted. Briscione is no slouch; he’s the Director of Culinary Development at the Institute of Culinary Education and has won Chopped twice. (Full disclosure—we've worked with him before.)
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Yet these credentials haven’t exactly safeguarded him from allegations that his recommendations are too outlandish to follow. Reactions have been hyperbolically incensed on Twitter; take a gander at the replies to that initial tweet. The response is informed, no doubt, by the video’s casual, step-by-step nature, the way this suggestion is relayed in the most nonchalant manner possible, which compounds the video’s terror—or, as the Twitter user who first shared it states, “everything just goes so wrong so quick.”
There’s nothing outwardly preposterous about seasoning your watermelon with some savory flavoring, as quite a few of this video’s critics acknowledge. Take chili powder, for example. But taco seasoning? I haven’t tried it. Briscione’s maintained a low profile throughout this, simply stating to one inquiring mind, on Twitter, that they’re “going to love” his way of spicing up these big, fleshy fruits. We’ll just have to take your word for it, chef.
Ever season your watermelon with taco seasoning? Let us know in the comments. (Seriously.)
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.