RAVEN Champion Profile: Transforming slow food into opportunities for social justice with The Paisley Notebook

Food is connection.

Food is a great way to bring us together — and yet, in our current world, “we so often write people [and their culinary culture] off before they even enter the room,” says Aman Dosanj, founder of the Paisley Notebook. Aman is using food education and edible adventures to bring us back together. 

Born and raised in Southampton, Aman was the first British Indian to play football for England. From there, she did a lot of anti-racism work in the football world — namely, getting more black and brown youth playing the game. 

Aman stands smiling in front of an outdoor dinner table with guests and a glowing string of lights
Photo of Aman by @meg.froehler

When her dad, who had already moved to Canada, got sick, the rest of the family decided to take a leap of faith and make BC’s Okanagan home for themselves. They emigrated and launched a family run, farm-to-table Indian restaurant. 

After  6 years in the hustle of restaurant life, and after her mom suffered a heart attack, Aman decided to take a step back and reassess how food could bring connection instead of burnout and heartache.

Aman took time to travel around the globe and started gathering people’s food memories: food as storytelling. “I would talk to everybody. Backpackers, locals, farmers, and ask them to share a food memory with me. I think we’re so busy in our day to day that we forget why we eat.” says Aman. “I just wanted people to take the time to slow down and remember. Remember a time, a place, a grandma, an ingredient.”

It’s a unifying idea: everyone has a memory that is linked to food

After 8 months of travelling, deep listening, and writing, Aman returned to Kelowna. She  turned the Paisley Notebook into a pop-up dinner series across the Okanagan that combines a few of her favourite things: slow food, storytelling, connection, social justice, and curse words.

Why slow food?

“The beauty of supporting local is the people.” Each pop-up dinner hosted since 2017 had a surprise menu because they were based on what was available that week — what local organic farmers had to offer.

a sign reading “Menu: it’s a surprise” on a table amongst bowls of food, glasses and cutlery.

“Slow food is all about good, cleaner, better food for everyone. And, it’s rooted in the teachings of Indigenous Peoples around the world. It’s not just about the prices that we’re paying our farmers; we’re also looking at the people, the biodiversity of soil, and just making sure that we’re treading as carefully as we can on the land.

We can’t keep on taking from the land. We have to give back.”

In addition to finding a place to realize her slow-food vision, Aman also brought her anti-racist lens to these pop-up dinners. “If I can show you that Indian food has a place within Canadian culture, and that all of these ingredients already exist, it stops being too othered, and starts to belong.” To top it off, each Paisley Notebook dinner involved a conversation on a social justice issue that Aman wanted to shine a light on. 

Inviting strangers to come eat in our homes is one of the most intimate ways we can connect and create understanding across divides. Aman’s pop-up dinners have become a way to invite people to learn, grow, sit in discomfort, and laugh together — while eating delicious food inspired by her ancestors. 

To date, these dinners have raised nearly $70k for local charities. 

The opportunity to centre people at all levels of consumption is possible within the slow food movement. Planting our own seeds of connection and rooting ourselves in belonging is what the Paisley Notebook is all about.

a wide shot of a long dinner table outside, filled with people. Mountains, hills and a lake are the backdrop.
Photo by @meg.froehler

Small acts of kindness.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, the pop-up dinners had to pause. Now, Aman focuses on delicious AF spices with her Edible Adventures spice blends and creating artful recipes, she’s calling doodles, that don’t include measurements (you can find these incredible animated recipes on Aman’s instagram page — each one illustrated by a different artist). “Not all recipes are exact measurements! No grandmother I know has a recipe book they cook from,” says Aman. She should know: Aman has cultivated a world for herself based on food, without spending years in culinary school. 

While Paisley Notebook’s pop-up dinners were quite successful in raising awareness and funds: in this time of global weariness small acts of kindness make a big impact. A percentage of sales from the Edible Adventures spice blends goes to a different charity each year — 2021 funds raised went to RAVEN. We’re raising our hands to Aman and the Paisley Notebook for all your acts of kindness over the years and for choosing to support RAVEN. 

Through all the various stages of Aman’s journey with food, three things remain constant: 
Food is storytelling.
Food is connection.
Food brings us together.

We wish Aman all the best as she continues to weave delicious adventures.

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