If you’ve logged on recently, you’ve probably seen the TikTok craze machine’s latest creation: “girl dinner,” or snack plates for one. Yes, the internet has decided to rebrand my solo nights eating fruit, nuts, and honey-drizzled hunks of feta off my stomach while watching Gossip Girl reruns. The term has snowballed so out of control online that it’s putting a major dampener on the IRL activity. Unfortunately, the trendification of girl dinner—and the various controversies that have followed it—have ruined a good thing.
Basically, any assemblage of foods intended to be a full meal can be a girl dinner. The deluge of discourse started when showrunner’s assistant Olivia Maher posted a video back in May shilling the virtues of her mishmash of cheeses and bread, sparking a slew of riffs. There’s a lineup of bagel crackers, pickles, salami slices, guacamole, and strawberries. A couple of ham-and-cheese-stuffed tortillas with a glass of what looks to be Nesquik. And a very aesthetic plate of cherry tomatoes, olives, prosciutto, burrata, and plumbs under a shiny slick of olive oil.
On TikTok alone, the trend has amassed over 212 million views, up from 30 million just 10 days ago. “We’re embracing low effort over overexertion,” creator Anna Laverty, who regularly shares her girl dinners online, told Dazed. “Who has time after an eight-to-10-hour workday to follow a 25-step recipe that requires 20 ingredients? Not me.” As one commenter wrote, girl dinner is freewheeling and indulgent, something of “a culinary Bacchanalia.”
At face value, girl dinner is a delightful way to nosh. “It’s perfect for the summer heat (no cooking, little cleanup) and ideal for the end of the day when you’re too exhausted to not eat foods that feel like a treat,” my colleague Sam Stone wrote about the trend. But like any viral movement, scale attracts scrutiny. In the weeks since Maher’s original post started doing the rounds, the internet has been trying to determine whether girl dinners are something to embrace or reject (things are very serious online). As we’ve witnessed time and again—please see example A: butter boards, and example B: mouse moments—once a thing is given a name, that thing becomes the object of controversy.
It needs to be said: There’s nothing new about the format. As British chef Nigella Lawson has pointed out, girl dinners are really just “picky bits.” Other creators have written entire cookbooks dedicated to the concept. You’ll see girl dinner hiding in plain sight on restaurant menus around the country: Jupiter in New York serves a bowl of cherries for dessert, and Botanica, in Los Angeles, features a bunch of dips and snacky small plates. It’s charcuterie. It’s similar to the bento-like plates—a combo of bite-size carrot medallions, cheddar cubes, grapes, and almonds—that my mom whipped up after school. Hell, it’s basically tapas, a style of eating the whole-ass country of Spain already got behind.