Writer Katy Kelleher claimed Barbie pink as the “color of the year” at Refinery29 earlier this month, citing its appearance in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie in progress and the recent Valentino show and TikTok’s popular bimbocore subgenre. But what didn’t this trending piece see coming? The “pink sauce,” which has started squeezing, dripping, and even bubbling all over TikTok over the past two weeks.
For the non-TikTok savvy, an introduction: The Pink Sauce is a condiment made by a TikToker who calls himself “Chef Pii” and is a private chef in Miami. It is, according to its website, made up of “water, sunflower seed oil, raw honey, distilled vinegar [sic], garlic, pitaya, pink Himalayan sea salt” and “less than 2 percent of: dry spices, lemon juice, milk, citric acid,” with pitaya representing its pink color. Its virality quickly gave way to drama. Chef Pii refused to explain what the sauce tasted like, the color of the sauce varied depending on the video, people pointed out major safety issues (despite containing milk, the sauce bottles were shipped unrefrigerated), and all of that turned out in big trouble. disorder. (Chef Pii is reportedly dealing with the FDA and at least one false death attributed to his product.)
But all of that has been covered a lot, so back to why Pink Sauce came up in the first place: the color, obviously. Since pink isn’t very common in the grocery realm, at least not since Parkay discontinued its “Shocking Pink” squeezable margarine, we asked the color experts to weigh in: Why is pink sauce so alluring and why exactly were we prepared for this moment? Because the color of the pink sauce varies from bottle to bottle, we discussed two versions: the paler sauce that found its way into people’s homes, and the brighter bottle that appeared in the initial promotion for Chef Pii.
When it comes to that brighter version, it’s “like Pepto Bismol but fun, playful, bright and a little more jarring,” says Natalie Ebel, co-founder of paint brand Backdrop, who has 10 roses on her list. Especially since 2020, these roses have been popular, she says. “There’s a sense of playfulness and also being a bit provocative like: Is this allowed? Can I do it?” she says of these shades. In fact, the pink sauce is just a little provocative. that’s what this color really screams,” he says.
Véronique Hyland, director of fashion articles at Elle and author of the book Dress Code, also sees a trend in this shade. Hyland notably coined the term “millennial pink” on The Cut in 2016, but unlike that desaturated pink, this one is “so much more unapologetically Elle Woods, Barbie, Angelyne, all these associations.” That this color has appeared in food is a bit surprising. “Food doesn’t usually have this color unless it’s highly processed, so you immediately think: What’s in this? It seems like some of the controversy hinges on what’s in it,” says Hyland.
Of the two, the paler version certainly reads as more approachable, especially when it comes to being edible. “It looks like melted strawberry ice cream,” says Ebel. While Hyland notes that he was referring to a more desaturated pink when he casually identified millennial pink, the color of this pink sauce is what he has come to mean more broadly. “This is one of the shades that would be considered millennial pink, the sweeter, more feminine version that is less flashy than hot pink,” she says.
Like the bright hue, the appearance of this millennial pink color in this medium is probably why we’re so drawn to pink sauce in our feeds, whether that visual appeal stems from initial fascination or revulsion. “I’ve seen quite a bit in the world of food in terms of décor, but I don’t know if I’ve seen that much with food beyond something sweet like a macaroon,” says Hyland. “This is supposed to be a savory sauce, so that could also be why there is some confusion; It looks like something that would be like chewing gum.”
However, no matter what shade pink sauce is, it seems safe to conclude that we wouldn’t be talking about it much if it were, say, brown: There’s a reason so many viral foods are covered in rainbows, gold, or goth. out with activated carbon. “I don’t think it would be as much of a talking point if it wasn’t pink,” says Hyland. “I think the impulses that lead people to question what’s in it might not have been there if it felt like a less unnatural color.”
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