Bannock – First Nations Style

FN Bannock 1Long before Europeans brought wheat and barley to the New World, the First Nations people harvested, processed and milled flour from indigenous plant life. Stuff you’d never think could turn into flour like Cattails, acorns, mosses, lichens and ferns. These became the base for a myriad of bread and bread-like recipes that kept the natives fed even during tough seasons and droughts.

One particularly badass recipe from the Neskonlith people (one that pre-dates European contact) calls for boiling black tree lichen until it coagulates enough to form sticky, licorice-flavoured hand cakes which were seared on rocks laid in charcoal-filled pits… Yurm.

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Bannock – European Style

Euro Bannock 1My whole culinary career (such as it is) I’ve been under the mistaken impression that bannock was exclusively a First Nations thing.

It must have been all the outdoor cooking demonstrations on Canada Day; bannock broiling up on cast iron beside staves of smoked salmon, always supervised by the local band elders. Every native cook I knew fried a mean skillet full ‘o bannock and on the occasions that Crystal and I went to Uke to see the extended family you could bet there’d be a lot of fry bread involved.

It turns out that although First Nations people may have been grinding nut and berry flour to make something bannock-like, the bannock recipes we recognize today originate in the Middle East. Most historians agree that the recipe came from ancient Egypt and the modern name came from Celtic England. (more…)

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