The wizened old lady with a bent back, walks towards the fields, picks up a long twig and breaks it with her bare hands. This will form the fuel for her mud stove, in which she’ll cook fish, which her great grandson K Laxman will shoot and upload on YouTube. “Give me anything, I’ll cook it for you,” says Mastanamma in the video, before squatting to clean and slice the fish. The 107-year-old YouTube sensation passed away on December 4.
From her famous chicken baked inside a watermelon with its flesh carved out, to mutton keema balls, omelette inside a cucumber, roasted river crabs, and even pizza, Mastanamma cooked a range of dishes in her trademark style, using mud pots and iron woks, for the YouTube channel Country Foods that has over 1.3 million subscribers. She cooked at her own pace — her videos will tell you how she was particular about the little things. She even peeled an onion, for example, with attention, her eyes in deep concentration.
The channel was run from Tenali, a town in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh. Mastanamma was seen cooking by the fields, often beside a pond. She celebrated her birthday this April, and her grandson threw her a party, cake and all. In the video, uploaded in the channel, she cuts her candy-pink cake under a tree, a party hat sitting on her grey hair.
Married when she was just 11, Mastanamma worked as a labourer. Physical work was nothing new to her, and she did it uncomplainingly.
Srinath Reddy, her great grandson’s business partner, says that she was healthy till the end. “She was active and took care of her needs herself,” he says and adds, “She never had any health problems and had a natural death.” Mastanamma loved fish, says Srinath.
Her favourite variety? Catla.