Four years ago, Lawrence Dass created Akka’s Handcrafted Foods to welcome the California’s west coast residents to true Indian flavors – like his special Indian chutneys! When we heard Lawrence was open for a talk, we jumped on the opportunity to dish out on his food inspirations, the integrity of cooking, and the influence of family, especially his Akka, which beautifully translates to “sister” in Tamil.
How did Akka’s start?
“My older sister is an excellent cook. She visited from India one day and made a very traditional lemon relish. We gave them to all of our friends, whether they were familiar with Indian food or not. Every one of them liked it and encouraged us to make different chutneys, like ginger and mango. ”
Where did you get the inspiration to make these traditional Indian condiments?
“We had annual pilgrimages since I was very small; it’s a family tradition. My mother would make Marsala with a combination of spices. She roasted these spices and grind them with a rolling pin on a stone until it was a very fine paste. We would make those spices at the beginning of the week, get our things ready, and take our pilgrimage. At the time, mobile transportation was not straight forward, so we went on bullock carts, trains, and cars just to arrive to the church’s destination. From there, we would rent a portion of a house and spend days there. During those couple of days, my mother would use the Marsala spices to make fresh curry!”
It seems like you have a family full of talented cooks!
“Food and cooking is very important in my family. They play in your overall well-being; what you eat is what you’re made of after all. You have to choose the ingredients and gauge how much you need – how much salt, how much spice – all those good, nourishing things. I love that it’s something you can control. Anybody can do it. It just takes time.”
Is cooking apart of you as well?
“When I was younger, I was very involved with helping my family make dishes. My mother and sisters, especially, were great cooks. But when I went to college, I didn’t get a chance to cook anymore because I didn’t have much time. It just wasn’t the same when I bought food from stores or ate in restaurants. I wanted to do all of those things again, and now I can. Whenever I cook, I always touch base to those feelings of upbringing.”
Many of your products are Good Food finalists! How does it feel?
“It’s fulfilling! I am happy to know that people enjoy my products. Food is something everybody can taste and respond to. It is connected to everyone’s taste buds – they can taste and feel how appetizing it is, and it hits the person almost immediately. The fragrance of it all is like music!”