What started out as a way to lift her own spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic has made a 21-year-old British woman an international social media sensation for her opinions on a topic that transcends borders: American snacks.
Like so many around the world, former York, England, preschool teacher Dawn Farmer found herself feeling sad and isolated during lockdown last September, when she decided to join social media app TikTok.
"I never really had a goal," she told TODAY Food. "I started it because I was unemployed at the time and looking for something to focus on, something that could potentially bring me a little happiness. It really evolved quite quickly."
Within days, a commenter asked Farmer for her opinion on the best British chocolates, and she was happy to explain the wonders of Cadbury's Boost and Milk Bars and Terry's Chocolate Oranges, among others.
She began to gain a small following for her pretty handwriting, distinctive Yorkshire accent and affinity for eating — and waxing rhapsodically about — fast food and snacks. But though she frequently answered questions about differences between life as a Brit and an American, it wasn't until a commenter challenged her to try some American snacks in mid-December that Farmer found her calling … and now, over 1.8 million followers and counting.
She began by sampling American favorites Twizzlers ("Disgusting, horrible") and Gobstoppers ("Nice, really good") from a local British grocery store. Then, at the suggestion of her followers, she moved on to Hershey bars ("Not too bad"), Nerds ("Nice!") and Sour Patch Kids ("Ooh yeah, they're nice. I could literally eat these all day"). Since then, she's discovered the wonders of Girl Scout Cookies ("They're really good frozen!") and American breakfast cereals, too.
Her biggest discovery: ranch dressing, which is not widely available in the U.K. "I never even heard of ranch until a few months ago," she said. "We only have Newman's, and it's one or two bottles hidden away behind other things in the supermarket.
"I've tried a real range now!" said Farmer, whose followers have sent her both the bottled and packet versions of Hidden Valley and other brands. "It's honestly taken over dips now for me. I put it on pizza, chips, burgers, everything."
Tootsie Rolls were not such a big hit with her ("I can't get on board with them," she said), and she declared Goldfish crackers "too salty, and not that great of an aftertaste." Several American cereals have left her baffled. "I find it strange that lots of people like things like Fruity Pebbles?" she said. "They're really not nice."
Farmer shares her favorite British sweets and snacks as well, which she notes tend to be less colorful (due to less artificial coloring) than American treats. She also answers a lot of questions about her accent — which some commenters have said is so strong it sounds fake, though she said her friends and neighbors would not consider it strong at all — and occasionally gives insights into British life, COVID-19 protocols, and even health care.
Sometimes, Farmer's parents and her 9-year-old brother get in on the taste-testing. She even managed to convince her 23-year-old sister and flatmate, Georgia, to join her a few times, though usually she is more camera-shy.
Some of the American foods Farmer wants to try she hopes to do so in person: "Chipotle!" she said. "I have heard a lot about that. And different coffee combinations with liquid coffee creamer! We can't get liquid creamer in the U.K., and they all look so nice, like the white mocha. Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee looks amazing. And I still want to try Chips Ahoy cookies."
Those on TikTok are clearly here for Farmer's American snack-ventures; her followers have grown exponentially over the past two months and will soon hit 2 million.
"The amount of positivity people have shown me is very overwhelming," she said. "I've always been very, very fascinated by America, and I'm really interested in the lifestyle differences between the U.K. and the U.S. I find it really quite mind-boggling how different they are.
"I think that's why people enjoy following me," she continued. I really appreciate the American personality. You guys seem so friendly and full of life and positive. I really like to explore the differences between us, but also how many similarities we share."