At 77, Anne Soosay never thought she’d have her own YouTube channel or that she’d be recording cooking videos and posting them online for the world to see.
When her stay in Singapore to visit her two daughters living there was extended indefinitely because of the Covid-19 travel restrictions, Anne was persuaded to record instructional videos of her well-loved dishes including fried loh see fun, sambal sotong, kuih seri muka and bingka ubi, kuah kacang, bak chang, plain briyani and spicy mutton chops.
The videos were primarily a way for her daughters – Serena and Anita – to preserve their mum’s recipes.
“I took leave during the March school holidays to spend time with my son. Papa and Mama were stuck in Singapore and since we couldn’t travel anywhere and had so much time on our hands, I thought the best thing to do would be to archive Ma’s many recipes. I was too lazy to write them down, as she had so many cooking tips and tricks which you can best pick up by watching, I decided to make videos,” shares Serena, 45, a family physician who has lived and worked in Singapore for the past 11 years.
Although she was initially a little intimidated by the idea of being on camera, Anne was keen to embark on the home project as she enjoys sharing her recipes.
“I thought it was a good idea because I really love to share my food with others. I was comfortable because the videographers were my daughters. I am a bit camera shy so it helped that I didn’t have to say anything,” shares Anne.
Eventually, Serena had to go back to work and because that required being in the “red zone areas” where she may have to see positive Covid-19 patients, Anne and her husband Dr Felix Soosay moved in with their other daughter, Anita who is also a doctor but has her own practice which she temporarily shut during Singapore’s circuit breaker as it was non-essential (medical aesthetics). This allowed her to spend time with her parents.
Anita continued the project – upping the ante a little so that the videos were a little more streamlined.
The videos were shot using mobile phones and the Soosay women posted them on their Facebook accounts and the rest, as they say, is history. Friends of Serena and Anita replicated Anne’s recipes which made the grandmother of seven,”very happy”.
The videos – which premiered on YouTube on June 1 and garnered 400 subscribers in four days – were shot in the sisters’ home kitchens, with minimal styling and natural light. There is no repartee, only subtitles that clearly outline the ingredients, steps, tips and tricks as Anne deftly goes about her cooking, exactly like what she’s been doing all her life. Well, almost.
Describing herself as a “true-blue Klang girl”, Anne learnt to cook from her mother at an early age. After she got married, her education in cooking extended beyond Chinese cuisine as her sisters in law taught her to cook Indian dishes.
“I also attended classes at the YWCA and Women’s Institute and some other private classes and nowadays I love to watch cooking videos online. When I watch them I can figure out which recipes are worth trying,” shares Anne.
For her daughters, being able to record their mum whipping the food that shaped their childhood and youth was incredibly fulfilling.
“It was a very important project for me as Mama was turning 77 and all this while, the thing we did best was to eat all her dishes. We only learnt a few of her key recipes but it was about time we learnt them all,” shares Serena.
Initially, the ladies recorded the meals that Anne was cooking each day.
“Mama is such a good cook that every dish she makes is worth archiving,” says Anita, 46. “After her videos began to draw attention, we became targeted in our choice of dishes and chose those that were hits at her parties throughout the years. The three of us discuss what recipes to feature,” she adds.
Fun in the kitchen
Shooting the videos was a lot of fun for the three women, although Anita reckons that her mother may have been “a bit annoyed” initially at having to do retakes to for the sake of getting good shots.
“It has actually been quite easy as Mum is very cooperative. She would stop, slow down and repeat a step whenever I needed her to. Am sure this must have been rather tricky at times as she’s used to cooking quickly in a smooth flow but I am quite fussy about the nitty-gritty details and would stop a shoot midway if I spotted a stray noodle or a splash of water on the counter just to clear it out! That initially annoyed Mum but after she watched the edited video, she appreciated the overall aesthetic and soon, she was the one stopping to wipe the counter clean during a shoot,” shares Anita.
For Anne, it was a chance to spend time doing what she loves with her girls.
“I enjoyed it very much. It was nice to spend so many hours with my daughters who normally work full time and I don’t have to chance to cook with them. I managed to share all my tips and tricks of my cooking so that they can cook for their children to maintain our traditional family recipes,” says Anne who has four children (two girls, two boys – also doctors!), all of whom, she proudly declares, are “very good cooks”.
Serena is a talented baker (check out @serenasoosay on Instagram) who enjoys making elaborate three-dimensional cakes for her loved ones, while Anita too is a skilled cook and baker though she delves more in party planning and goes the extra mile by hosting themed parties in her home for friends and family.
Their love for cooking, they share, stems from watching their mum cook and savouring her mouth-watering food as they were growing up.
“My children are my biggest critics and they keep me on my toes!” shares Anne. “I don’t have a favourite dish. I enjoy cooking a variety of cuisines but my forte is Asian dishes. I love to cook and enjoy seeing my family and friends savoring the dishes. A good meal is nutritious and cooked with good quality, fresh ingredients. It’s important to have the right combination of dishes that complement each other,” she concludes.