The HVADC Cultivator
FFFA Peer Spotlight:
Atina Foods in Catskill, is a small but growing business using locally grown ingredients to make traditional and original spins on South Indian condiments. Husband and wife team Carrie Dashow and Suresh Pillai make fermented and salt pickled products that are a flavorful gateway to creating Indian dishes at home and are a unique addition to any meal.
Available through their online store and at markets throughout the region, New York and Brooklyn (limited due to COVID-19, check their website for more information), Atina Foods’ lacto-fermented and salt pickled recipes evolved from Suresh's traditional upbringing in Kerala, South India, the ancestral home of Ayurvedic health practices and a place where people consider food as medicine, and eating for health has been a practiced custom for centuries.
“Cooking with his family and travel through out the diaspora and beyond have found their way to our new local land of Catskill, New York,” Carrie said, “Combining produce from the country of origin with local and home grown material, we look for the most health beneficial combinations from there to here, as Ayurveda not only means what we can get far away, but that the restorative elements are in one's present habitat.”
While Ayurvedic practices may be somewhat of a foreign concept – although methods which are gaining popularity - the central idea that eating high quality locally grown produce can make you feel better is a notion eaters throughout the Hudson Valley are quite accustomed to.
“The idea that food is a medicine is integrated into Indian society in a way that it’s not here,” Carrie said. “We’re not saying it’s a replacement for medication. It’s about strengthening the relationship between food and actions.”
Carrie and Suresh moved upstate from arts and education careers in the city to closer associate themselves with the land. Carrie said she was surprised when she quickly discovered her husband’s skills in the kitchen with fresh ingredients and the traditional knowledge he retained from his home country.
Atina’s flagship product is a turmeric and ginger herbal jam. Originally used as a digestive aid before feasting holidays, this is a great ingredient to start or finish any number of protein- and vegetable-based dishes and makes a great dip mixed with yogurt. Other healthy delicious favorites include Atina’s Ginger Tamarind Inji Puli herbal jam, its Rhubarb Ginger herbal jam, and its Garlic Scape Pickle.
Now Atina’s entire line of products and special seasonal items are becoming a hit as the business grows, even through the COVID-19 pandemic. Carrie said previously they saw their growth coming through in-person tastings. Now, due to influences and mentorship as part of HVADCs Farm and Food Funding Accelerator (FFFA) (and a kick in the pants from the pandemic) Atina has been growing through online sales, new relationships and some some very well-timed media exposure in local print publications as well as broadcast.
Though it filmed almost a year ago, in May, Atina was featured in an episode of the PBS program Lucky Chow on healing foods, along with former FFFA Peer Gopal Farms. The spotlight has continued to drive new interest in their products.
“It’s been great with HVADC. They really helped us professionalize what we were doing,” Carrie said. “We get to bounce things of mentors who have been in our position before and it helped us speed things up that we needed to do anyway, like the online store.”
Diet and wellness has be come a major focus for many during the crisis and Carrie says she and her husband feel fortunate that their clientele see the value in their product now more than ever.
“Even though everything feels so foggy and uncertain, a path for us is illuminated and we fit right in,” She said. “We think we are in a new category called ‘functional food.’ It’s holistic, not extractive.”
Newer Atina products are swapping out exotic ingredients for local staples like rhubarb. These new recipes make products more approachable and also teach customers that Ayurvedic foods don’t have to be made strictly with Indian ingredient.
In July Atina intends to open their welcoming outdoor space in Catskill in whatever capacity is appropriate. They will offer fresh cooked food, their signature line, and seasonal fermentation projects and special items that will not be available anywhere else. Follow Atina on social media for more details (@atinamadonna)
Atina Foods is taking meaningful Indian traditions and translating them to the Hudson Valley’s farm fresh eating style. In the process they are discovering we have been speaking much of the same language all along.
To learn more about the FFFA program, visit https://www.hvadc.org/farm-food-funding-accelerator.
Photo/logo Source: Atina Foods