An Okanagan-based chef is doing her part to help with the COVID-19 crisis unfolding in India with a pop-up dinner and virtual cooking class in support of Indian-based charities.
Aman Dosanj, the founder of the pop-up dinner series the Paisley Notebook, was born and raised in England, but both of her parents are from India.
“As a business, I profit off of India every day because I cook Indian food at my pop-up dinners. Also, last year, I launched my spice blends, so even though I’m from the culture itself, I still profit from the country,” she said.
India has been grappling with a COVID-19 crisis for weeks now. The country set a record high of single-day cases on April 30 with 401,993 new cases, according to the World Health Organization. There are more than 19 million confirmed cases with more than 211,000 deaths.
Dosanj said that her decision to support the country during this time of crisis is about keeping herself accountable.
“I think accountability is something that we all need to have, especially with white-owned businesses who are profiting off of the culture every day without even acknowledging the part of the country in their business,” she said.
The first event planned in her initiative is a pop-up private backyard dinner for a six-person bubble, where Dosanj will prepare a four-course meal while obeying COVID-19 health measures. Okanagan residents are invited to bid on the event, which started at $840 and runs for another week.
The second event is a virtual cooking class on May 13 that will be co-hosted by Calgary-based cook and author Julie Van Rosendaal. There are 50 spots available for the hands-on session, with each slot listed at $50.
Money raised from both events will all go towards an Indian-based charity or charities of Dosanj’s choice. Residents who are interested in bidding for the pop-up dinner or participating in the virtual cooking class can do so by emailing Dosanj at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by connecting with the paisleynotebook Instagram page.
This isn’t the first time Dosanj has raised funds to support racialized or marginalized groups: her pop-up series has previously supported Asian anti-violence organizations and the Black Health Alliance. Her annual International Women’s Day fundraiser this year donated all proceeds to mental health charities and Slow Food Canada.
“If you can stop it being about you — which is really hard in the food industry because it’s centered around a chef and they tend to be very egocentric — if it stops being about you and you’re actually willing to donate your time and give 100 per cent to a charity, it changes everything, because your intention is there,” she said.
She added that everyone has a part to play in supporting India during this time of need.
“When it comes to accountability, everyone should be looking at this as a human rights issue. When a country can’t literally breathe, we all have a part in that, because that should just be a basic human right,” she said. “When oxygen and vaccines — especially when vaccines are coming from that specific country and we’re getting vaccinated, but domestically Indians are not — that’s a huge problem.”