I’m all about social experiments. The Paisley Notebook was created to be one ever-changing experiment to get people thinking about where their food comes. More importantly, my project sheds light on the people behind the plate.
Reflecting back on my time here, I remember how lucky we are to live in a place where we can speak directly to our local farmers, distillers, foragers and crafters and ask questions – they have faces and names and families. No matter where I travel, it’s not necessarily where I am, but who I’m with – the people make the place.
I thought I’d return some love by introducing you to some of the new friends that helped us along the way:
Ezra wears a lot of hats – award-winning distiller with a top-notch palate, part owner of Vandal doughnuts, sailor and more. We literally were able to bring the forest to him and Ezra, Melissa and I had a gin baby together (well, there were actually 8 bottles produced), weighing in at 2lb 15oz each. To have something that reminds you of this adventure in such a cool way has been one of my top highlights. That all started because Ezra said yes to meeting two random people. Try his Fort George Genever Gin and the Reserved Rhum – trust me. And did I mention he’s just a really lovely guy?
Check this out: Colette grew up with my friend, Janine, who now lives in Kelowna, BC. Janine introduced me to Colette and that’s how this whole writing about my east coast adventure began. We met in real life during my wild food inspired pop up dinner at the HFX Brewery Market, but not only that, Janine flew in and she once worked for Alexander Keith’s in that very courtyard way back when. I liked Colette and her outlook on people, business and life so much that I’m officially friend stealing her (sorry Janine).
United by our Slow Food thinking (which is all about supporting good, clean and fair foods), Scott and Quita were such generous hosts. Setting up tours and tastings with local businesses, teaching us about the maple production and given encouragement when we needed it the most. We left with warm and fuzzy feels, that’s for sure. You have to experience Sugar Moon Farm. I can’t wait to come back, but next time it’ll be longer than 48 hours.
Four years ago Lisa didn’t know the difference between hard and soft wood. She and her husband, Rob, wanted to break the routine of their corporate jobs and that’s how The Hardwood Tree started. ‘It took me a long time to find out what I wanted to do when I grew up’. Lisa went on to tell us that she only wished she discovered this sooner, but that doesn’t matter – she’s doing it now and she is in love. There’s something incredible about working with your hands and Lisa and Rob are crafting wooden boards and crafts using local Nova Scotian trees. You can also find them at the HFX Brewery Market.
Thanks to Instagram I met forager, Sarah, who is a source of information about the land and the curious world of edible wild things. Sarah spent hours showing us one of her coastal foraging spots and sent me home with pantry items for my little project. I think it’s also cool when people who have never officially met can work together and pull off a pop up dinner. She is also a good person to DM random pictures of mushrooms and ask if they’ll kill you if you eat them.
Organic farmer extraordinaire, Cammie grows delicious produce. That isn’t surprising considering she is originally from the Okanagan. Her farm, Waldegrave Farm, belongs to a very special land trust, which is all about giving organic farmers a chance to farm on land that they’ve protected. It’s all about doing things for the right reason and making sure organic farming practices can continue despite things like raising housing and land prices. It’s pretty brilliant if you ask me.
I really do have a soft spot for Charles and his quirky storytelling. As he talks you through what he does and the way in which he does it at Canada’s oldest oyster lease, his eyes sparkle. It’s amazing to see that after so long and despite the fact he’s still working as hard has he always has in his 70s, he just loves what he does and it’s infectious.
The business of sturgeon and caviar is pretty misunderstood, and that’s where Cornel comes in. Originally from Romania, Cornel is an encyclopaedia of knowledge when it comes to sturgeon and sustainability – as a scientist with a PhD in Sturgeon Biology, he literally wrote the book on it. It’s was a business built on faith – his financial backers pulled out because the return wouldn’t come until ten years in, but Cornel decided to start the business anyways and do it with the ocean health in mind. Before him, there were no fishing quotas in place; he made that happen. He was so generous with his time even though he moved homes a day or two before, as well as his product. And having tasting his caviar and Northern Divine in BC, Acadian Sturgeon Caviar wins on taste and quality.
Sean and I shot an episode of From The Wild recently in Edmonton. Now we got to meet again but this time on his turf. He’s a great guy – always positive, super hard working, a tad sarcastic and someone who’s willing and awesome at guiding you through things. As a hunter, fisher and forager, Sean’s connection to the land is solid and he shares that knowledge during his foraging tours.
Small business is hard. Doing the right thing is often the hardest thing. But these special people are doing it anyways and that’s something to celebrate and shine light on. When you’re in the day to day of things, it’s sometimes hard to acknowledge the small wins, so hopefully reading this will be a gentle well deserved pat on the back, even if it’s a small one.
Thank you for doing what you do. Please keep on doing what you do, in the way you do it.