A bannock renaissance

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You know something is good when many claim its invention. There is the great poutine debate over who first combined fries, cheese curds and gravy. Hawaiian pizza is claimed both in Canada and America. My heritage is Ukrainian so I believe that the pierogi (or perogi, or pirogi) is our invention and not from Poland or Russia.

Bannock is also contested. It is a form of bread first popular with early Canadian settlers and fur traders. The flat oval cake was made from unleavened flour, lard, salt, water and sometimes baking powder. Common teaching has Scottish fur traders introducing bannock to First Nations peoples during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Scots version was cooked on a griddle or bannock stone and made of barley, pea meal, or oatmeal. I was introduced to bannock at camp. It is dense. Think of hockey pucks comprised of carbohydrates. Quick and easy to make, it is clear why it was popular in the great outdoors. A big cake served many men who tore off individual portions.

With all respect to the Scots, most First Nations had their own version of bannock. Inuit call it palauga, Mi’kmaq luskinikn, and Ojibwa ba‘wezhiganag. Before Europeans introduced wheat and barley, First Nations people milled flour from cattails, acorns, mosses, lichens and ferns. These produced bread and bread-like recipes that kept people fed during tough times.

Metis are credited with adding wild berries to sweeten bannock. The different types have largely ended up as modern native bannock or “fry bread”. The traditions and innovations, both European and First Nations, are found in this version. There are many bannock recipes but most advise using the same ingredients and procedure.

Recently, our household cooked a batch. Let me be honest, my stepdaughter cooked it and I ate the pizza-sized portion. The first bite brought me back to childhood. My sister reminded me that our mother prepared it at the summer cottage. My wife’s mother cooked a version called “Scottish Bread”. There are bannock-themed restaurants and food trucks.

Bannock in a Box is available at national grocers. Yet it can be made at home in a frying pan or deep fryer, oven, or on sticks over a fire (called Bush Bannock). Bannock dishes are creative as people experiment with its versatility. Bannock tacos have lime juice in the batter mixture and are topped with chili, shredded cheese and lettuce, chopped tomato, sour cream and salsa.

Cinnamon bannock rolls are delicious along with butternut squash bannock pizza, sweet berry bannock bites and beet salad, and northern pike caviar bannock blinis. We made a focaccia version with olive oil, garlic and rosemary.

Why not a bannock pierogi (or perogy)? Hey, I just Googled, “bannock perogy”. It doesn’t exist. So now you know I am its inventor.

 

More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Jeff Swystun

 

Jeff Swystun26 Posts

Conférencier prolifique et écrivain, Jeff a donné plus de 115 conférences dans 25 pays. L'expertise de Jeff en matière de stratégie d'entreprise, de stratégie de marque et de marketing a mené à l'ouverture de Swystun Communications en 2012. / A prolific speaker and writer, Jeff has appeared at over 115 conferences in over 25 countries. Jeff’s expertise in business strategy, branding and marketing led to the opening of Swystun Communications in 2012. SC is a boutique agency focused on the intersection of business and brand strategy.

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