What did you do for work in the past?
I didn’t work. I stayed home and made food to sell. I sold bak zhang (rice dumplings) in May, and biscuits and Chinese New Year snacks at the end of the year. I never used to go out to work—I only started recently. Now, I do administrative tasks at my son’s tailor shop. I’ll help to buy things he needs and all that.
Do you still sell your bak zhang and biscuits now?
I still sell bak zhang in May, but not the biscuits at the end of the year. It’s so tiring, sitting there making egg rolls, because they’re so difficult to make. Actually, now I give them away. If you know me, you can just come and get some bak zhang and snacks in May (laughs). I’ll make egg rolls, Nyonya bak zhang, and steamed cakes.
Do you have a lot of children and grandchildren?
Oh, yes. My three sons have six children, and my four daughters have a lot of them as well, about 10. My four daughters are actually my older sisters’ children. They dumped them at my house after they were born and said “bye bye”. I used to look after all the children, because I never went out to work, just stayed home and took care of the children and cooked.
Was it tough taking care of so many children?
No, because a lot of us lived together in a big, big house, so it was easy. I took care of my children, and when they grew up and had kids of their own, I took care of my grandchildren as well. I looked after so many of them!
Can you tell us a bit more about the outfit you’re wearing?
This set of clothes was made in the past, when I was over 30 years old. All of my clothes that I have at home are handmade from long ago. Till now, I’ve only gained a bit of weight here and there, so I opened some of the seams in these areas up a bit.
I have clothes in every colour, and on the first 15 days of the Lunar New Year, I wear a different set of Nyonya clothes everyday, but I wear pants. I don’t have skirts. All of them are hand-embroidered, like this one—they’re not like the mass-produced ones you see nowadays.
What colours do you enjoy wearing the most?
I don’t really care. If I cut a piece of fabric in this colour, then I’ll finish using it. Whether it’s white or black, I don’t care. If I like it, I’ll just keep cutting and making more sets. And I don’t wear flowery prints. They’re all like this, no patterns, handmade by me. I don’t even need to make clothes now, I have a lot.