Black beans in brownies? Syrian refugees get the hang of Canadian cooking

June 2, 2016

By Samantha Craggs, CBC News |

In the basement kitchen at Wesley Urban Ministries, clean hands keep busy as Syrian refugee women crowd around a pot, rolling dough and chatting in Arabic.

This moment serves multiple functions. For one, the women – all trying to get acclimatized to their new home of Canada – can get together for social time.

Second, they attend this – the Wesley Urban Ministries weekly cooking class – to learn about Canadian ingredients, and Canadian food, and new recipes to prepare for their newly Canadian families.

On Wednesday, they made brownies with black beans as an ingredient. They also made twice as much, so they could sell some at a bake sale for Case for Kids. The 25th annual walk, run and ride is June 5.

Rima Briman, a teacher in Syria who arrived in Canada on Feb. 8, is already a good cook, but never thought to combine chocolate with black beans to make a brownie.

“It’s very nice to help and make this delicious meal,” she said.

When asked to compare Canadian cooking to Syrian cooking, Briman said that Syrians are more likely to take their time. “You cook very quickly.”

Wesley has held the weekly classes since 2011 to go over various aspects of food with newcomer families, from sanitation to what local food is available, to how to handle distinctly Canadian ingredients. On Wednesday, they cooked with rhubarb.

“It was just picked yesterday, so it’s nice and fresh,” said Andrea Buttars, manager of resource development.

Briman will take the chocolate and black bean brownie knowledge with her when she goes. But she has other, more pressing plans.

One goal is “to have good language to contact people in the future to have work,” she said. “But (the) first important thing is I want the rest of my family to come to Canada.”

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