LSA Loves is a weekly column where our editorial team raves about something they love. From skincare to a dish or a Netflix series, this is a look into what gets us ticking.
I keep a list of things I never want to live without. It is arbitrary and ever-growing, but a handful of items remain constant, of which food content is undeniably king.
This goes beyond the very Singaporean preoccupation about eating. It is an ardour directed towards media about food, one that began as a child watching my grandmother cook, then graduated into gawking at Rachel Ray and Emeril Lagasse when I was let near a television.
This affection was then redirected at culinary-themed games after the Internet became a household norm — Diner Dash, Maggie Market, Burger Island, Hot Dog Bush and the like are my brand of nostalgia — chased down by reality competitions like Hell’s Kitchen and Masterchef during the genre’s heyday. So influential were these programmes that cussing came to me via Gordon Ramsay and not the school canteen, much to my mother’s chagrin.
Even in adulthood, names and faces bent-over hissing pans and whooshing whisks on a screen remain inextricable from my ideas of comfort and calm. Naturally, during a global pandemic, food has never been more of an anchor.
One night, as I was trawling across YouTube for more after exhausting all the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen videos in existence, I fell into a blackhole governed by ASMR baking videos. I’m still lost in that slurry.
ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, was a massive YouTube trend that took off circa 2017. Touted as a vehicle for calm via addictive auditory orgasms (their words, not mine), it gained popularity so much so that videos average tens of thousands of views.
ASMR video producers, such as Gentle Whispering ASMR, total 1.86 million subscribers and almost 743 million views at the time of writing. That’s a whole lot of traction for serial whispering and fingernails tapping on tables. Clearly, I never hopped on the ASMR bandwagon, until its baking equivalent came into my purview.
Videos in this niche give me all the zen I need. Instead of listening to podcasts about centring myself, I watch a pair of smooth hands layering immaculate rounds of sponge cake with pink frosting, the cake stand spins as the cream spreads, splodges as soft as a kitten’s footsteps.
The sandy wind of dough being formed sounds like dead leaves crunching under boots in autumn. Butter-rich dough being rolled by a pair of gloved hands rustles like my legs stretched across fresh bedsheets. All these sounds tickle the simplest and best of times, symphonically expressed on confectioneries that look like a Stepford wife’s fantasy.
What is even more appealing about ASMR baking videos is that the content creators often have accessible recipes. You can take the audio-visual fairy dust to your own kitchen and create the likes of condensed milk truffles, no-bake cheesecake and more.
Naturally, there are other confections by these bakers that are pro-tier enterprises, and those are fodder for aspiration. For instance, one famous peach mousse cake on Korean channel, Cooking Tree, is aptly described by a user as, “if this cake were a person it would be the straight-A private school girl who gets the full-ride scholarship to Harvard”. It’s true, and you have to see it to believe it.
Whether you choose to get baking after a binge across ASMR foodtube or not (personally, not), its beauty does not lie in practical application so much as the pristine universe it delivers to every viewer.
As symmetrical cakes are put together amidst tinkles, taps and pours, my mind (and hopefully yours too) can switch off from the chatter of the everyday. It can seek solace in homely acts of creation that don’t need to speak to be heard, and that is comforting in an age so harrowingly verbose.
Plus, these baking videos don’t feature white women weirdly whispering into my ear, and that’s a win every single time.
Photos: Josephine’s Recipes and Cooking Tree