The septuagenarian’s YouTube channel, Annammachedathi Special, features traditional as well as new-age dishes
It is a happy Christmas for Annamma Pulivelil aka Annamma chedathi. Her cookery channel on YouTube, Annammachedathi Special, has completed a year and her subscriber count has crossed 8.5 lakhs.
Clad in chatta-mundu (traditional attire of Christian women in Kerala), the 78-year-old from Nadavayal in Wayanad district of Kerala has been cooking up a storm YouTube with her recipes, presentation style and that hearty smile.
Back from a trip to Kaippuzha in Kottayam district, where she hails from, the septuagenarian was felicitated at a YouTubers’ meet for being the oldest YouTuber from the state. “It was overwhelming. What more can I ask for at this age?” says Annamma over the phone from Wayanad.
Talking about Christmas festivities, Annamma says, “In Kottayam, we had to fast on Christmas eve, and so no non-vegetarian dishes were prepared at home. But, here in Wayanad, we make kappa biryani (tapioca mashed and mixed with beef) on Christmas eve. Kozhi and pidi (curried chicken and rice dumplings) is a must on Christmas day. Then we make kallappam (appam made with toddy), beef curry and the like…,” she says. Annamma cooks all recipes for the channel in the company of her son, Babu Stephen Pulivelil.
It was their neighbour and vlogger, Sachin Thankachan, who brought the duo into the limelight. “I had a YouTube channel and was on the lookout for an elderly Christian woman to present a dish for one episode. It was my father who came across Annamma chedathi. She prepared her trademark fish curry that has quite a huge fan following among those who know her. When that video went viral, I suggested starting a channel and she was game for it,” says Sachin, who shoots the videos in the company of his wife, Pinchu Sachin. The couple already runs a YouTube channel, Come On Everybody.
Sachin adds that Annamma did not need any guidance before she faced the camera. “What was required was vachakam (talking) and pachakam (cooking). And she has oodles of that! There is no script and she just goes with the flow, laughing a lot and cracking jokes,” says Sachin. The videos are shot in a shed behind Annamma’s house.
In addition to non-vegetarian dishes (seafood, chicken and beef), snacks and savouries are also prepared by the duo. At least 15 videos are uploaded every month, Sachin says. Episodes on Annamma’s personal life have also been getting lakhs of views.
“Until Sachin came up with this idea I wasn’t aware of YouTube and cooking channels. Even now I don’t follow any other channels. I watch my videos after they are uploaded and often wonder how I have managed to pull it off!” she laughs.
Cooking has been part of her life, she adds. She has been cooking from the age of nine. She had to drop out of school to take care of eight siblings, seven of them younger to her. Post marriage, she moved to Wayanad at the age of 18. A mother of six, she cooked for the inmates of a shelter home near her house for 11 years.
When her family and relatives gush about her cooking, she says, “It is an organic process. I have been doing this for so many years.”
Annamma and Babu have been showcasing items that are not traditional as well. Babu, who has a diploma in hotel management, says: “I have worked in Kuwait and later in Iraq at the American army base camp for some time. So I am familiar with different kinds of cuisine. When viewers ask for variety, I try them out and ammachi is always enthusiastic about making them. We prepared paneer masala and for Deepavali, we made rasagulla and gulab jamun.”
Annamma adds: “The show must go on, right? I look forward to trying out new recipes. I wish I had known that paneer is made from curdled milk! I also experiment with certain dishes. For instance, we made a chicken curry that followed the method for preparing a fish curry.”
Sachin adds that Annamma makes it a point to check the number of views after each video is uploaded. “People call her up from across the world and she patiently talks to all of them. She is all ears when Babu chettan reads out the comments on the page. In fact, she addresses her subscribers as “ente makkal” (my children). So, she believes she has over 8.5 lakh children now!”