Fredericton — Picking up a week’s supply of Kraft Dinner and a couple of frozen pizzas is second nature to most New Brunswickers. But for immigrants new to the province, grocery shopping can be a daunting task, which is why local caterer Bonnie Harris is offering free grocery shopping classes for immigrants looking to eat like New Brunswickers.
“There’s so much to learn!” she expressed. “For instance, many immigrants don’t know that New Brunswick has a long, rich history of delicious foods that have become important parts of our culture. Crêpes Suzette, Duck à l’Orange, Chicken Dijon — these dishes cannot be found in New Brunswick. Here we appreciate the finer tastes, such as the many uses for bacon and ketchup.
“It’s stuff like this that’s difficult to understand when you first move to our province, and I teach my students how to overcome these problems right at the source: the grocery store.”
But her class doesn’t end at the Sobeys check-out. Harris also includes a cooking portion to her lessons where she reveals such New Brunswick gourmet secrets as adding ketchup to Kraft Dinner, and how long to microwave a KFC bun.
“I had this one student from Equador who had been suffering through lukewarm buns,” she said. “When I showed him how to nuke it for 22 seconds, he was unbelievably grateful.”
Residents of Fredericton say Harris’s program will be very helpful for the city’s immigrants.
“I think it’s great,” stated Jeff Thériault, a Fredericton native. “Just last week I saw an Asian lady at the Sobeys. I peeked in her cart and she had all these veggies, mushrooms and something she called ‘kale’ — and she had fish. Like, not frozen or breaded — just fish. That’s pretty weird, so I’m happy to know she can now get the help she needs.”
“This one guy was kind of adorable,” remembered Katie Williston, another local. “He had a package of ground coffee beans in his basket. There was a Tim Hortons just outside the grocery store …”
Some grocers have rejected the idea of hosting shopping classes, but others have embraced Harris with open arms. Ben McKnight, a Sobeys stock boy, said the class could save him countless hours that “go wasted on helping foreigners.”
“I’ve got to help ’em out a lot,” he informed. “Two weeks ago, I had a customer from Europe come in. He was looking for a Brita filter, so I told him he was wasting his money and I showed him to a table of red-tagged Pepsi. He was so naive, he only put one in his cart. There was a whole four days left till expiration! So I had to explain that he would need at least 5 more 2-litre bottles to get him through the rest of the week. Harris’s class might let me get some work done for a change!”
Perhaps most importantly, graduates from Harris’s shopping class are raving.
Takumi Yamakawa moved to New Brunswick from Japan last July. He says he has been adapting well, but food shopping and preparation had been a large hurdle before taking the class. “When I first came here,” he said, “I kept looking for markets where I might find home-grown, fresh vegetables and meat. I couldn’t find any. But thanks to Ms. Harris I learned about 310-3030!”
Aldelina Beqiri, an immigrant from Albania, said, “When I arrived in the province, I wanted nothing more than to become a contributing member of New Brunswick society. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t contributing to the province’s 30-percent obesity rate. However, now that I’ve passed this class, I’m happy to say I can now contribute — and then some!”
Immigrants looking to enroll in Harris’s grocery shopping class can sign up at any Fredericton Sobeys, Superstore or Co-Op.