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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Newcomer wakes up to smell the coffee...cake!

I love cakes and pastries, but growing up in India, my exposure to different varieties was limited. I should clarify here that I belong to the era when choice was limited to a few flavours, and to special occasions like birthdays. 

I remember being served a lemon cake once at a birthday party and finding the slightly tart icing a very unfamiliar and not so pleasant taste. So for someone like that, both cheesecake and coffee cake were part of learning to be Canadian.

Once for a parents’ get-together at our children’s school, we were asked to bring some eats. A lady asked me if I wanted to bring a coffee cake. I thought it meant cake with coffee in it, like chocolate cake or vanilla cake, and though that sounded a bit weird, agreed, because I didn’t want to say something that just shouted “newcomer”!

At the bakery section in the local grocery, I asked the person there for a coffee cake. She pointed to the display and said, “We have all these. Which one would you like?”

Now she was pointing to cakes that ranged from simple sponge cakes (that I recognized) to elaborate ones decorated with fruit and fancy icing. But not one label identifying any of them as “coffee cake”.

“I need a coffee cake,” I repeated.

“Yes, we have all these different ones in different sizes,” she responded. 

“But which one has coffee in it?” I asked, a bit embarrassed by now.

“Coffee? I don’t think we have any with coffee in them,” she said. “Oh, wait, I think we have one with mocha icing. Would that work?”

Now I was confused and even more embarrassed at how long it was taking me to complete a simple purchase.

I apologized for taking her time and explained that I had been asked to bring a coffee cake but had no idea what it was.

She explained with a friendly smile that coffee cake just meant a cake that was had with coffee! It could be any flavour, shape or size.

Later, I learned that I hadn’t been completely wrong, either, as coffee cake does also mean cakes with coffee in them. Thankfully, though cheesecake was also new to me, at least there was no confusion about the ingredients – a cheesecake does actually contain cheese!

                                                                                                                                         – Nandini Shinde


What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: Aug 2, 2018

October 2018



Centennial College



Immigration Peel Canada



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