Can Bannock represent Canadian national food? Perhaps. It originally came from Europe, specifically Scotland (Gaelic bannach, means morsel)1, and became adopted by most Indigenous nations of Canada.2 The reason why this style of bread was not common in this part of the world is because indigenous ingredients for bread did not include wheat flour and bannock does.3 European settlers brought the wheat seeds with them,as well a the word for this type of bread, and ‘recipe’.4 However, with time, Colonial Canada established Reserves and Residential schools, which prohibited Indigenous people to share their traditional knowledge and food, so the bannock sort of stuck around and recipes were adapted depending on the region.5
Traditionally, (European) bannock consist of water, flour and fat, which is fried. Various websites at cookbooks provide different variations of the recipe. Indigenous people used “corn flour or plants rather than the wheat flour of the Europeans.”6
However, Indigenous people made bred before the contact as well. According to Michael Blackstock:
“The bannock of Aboriginal people was made of corn and nut meal, and flour made from ground plant bulbs. There were many regional variations of bannock that included different types of flour, and the addition of dried or fresh fruit. Traditionally, First Nation groups cooked their bannock by various methods. Some rolled the dough in sand then pit-cooked it. When it was done, they brushed the sand off and ate the bread. Some groups baked the bannock in clay or rock ovens. Other groups wrapped the dough around a green, hardwood stick and toasted it over an open fire. Pioneers may have introduced leavened breads to the Aboriginal people. The use of leavened breads spread and adapted from there. Pioneers also introduced cast-iron frying pans that made cooking bannock quicker and easier. Today, bannock is most often deep-fried, pan-fried and oven-baked. Bannock is one of the most popular and widespread native foods served at pow wows, Indian cowboy rodeos, festivals, and family gatherings.”
Here are a few recipes used today:
Cree Bannock Bread8
6 Cups flour
1 Cup lard
3 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
2 Cups currants or raisins
3 ½ cups water
You’ll also need a medium sized mixing bowl.
In the bowl, mix the flour and lard together by hand. Then add the baking powder, salt and the currants or raisins. Once this is done, add the water and work the ingredients into a dough. Next, you have two options: the camp fire or the oven. To cook over a camp fire, divide the dough into four lumps and firmly wrap each lump around the end of a four foot stick and prop securely over the fire until golden brown. To cook in an oven, spread the dough out into a 16″ square cake pan. Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.”
Prince Edward Island Baked Bannock (Baked)9
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening and then stir in milk. Form a ball of dough using flour to prevent sticking to hands. Roll into a square approximately 2” thick. Mark with squares (by making shallow cuts into the dough so cutting is easier after it is baked) and bake at 350°F for about 1/2 hour.”
3 cups flour
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons lard
- Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Make a little well an pour the water in.
- Mix into a dough and knead it.
- Flatten it out and put in the frying pan.
- Cook on hot ashes over open fire or in the oven.
Especially good fresh with lard. (Can also be made with boiled potatoes added.)”
Most, if not all, of these recipes are in common use today and bannock is spreading across Indigenous restaurants across Canada.11Bannock became a part of Canadian identity and represents the unique blend of Indigenous and European cuisine.
Links to more recipes:
- John Robert Colombo,”Bannock.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed March 20, 2017. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/bannock/.
- Nathalie Cooke, What’s to Eat? Entrées in Canadian Food History. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.), 62.
- Franca Iacovetta, Marlene Epp, and Valerie J. Korinek. Edible Histories, Cultural Politics towards a Canadian Food History. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.), 12.
- Reay Tannahill. Food in History. (New and Rev. ed. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.), 222.
- Cooke, What’s to Eat?, 68.
- “History of Bannock” Food Services, University of Toronto
- “History of Bannock,” in Michael Blackstock Bannock Awareness Printed In Celebration of National Aboriginal Day
- “Cree Bannock Bread.” Bannock Bread – Mtis Culture. Accessed March 28, 2017. http://easternwoodlandmetisnation.ca/bannock-bread.htm.
- Blackstock, Michael. “Bannock Awareness Printed In Celebration of National Aboriginal Day.” Southern Interior Forest Region. Accessed April 2, 2017. https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/rsi/fnb/fnb.htm#navajo.
- Eleanor A. Ellis, Northern Cookbook. (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1967.), 192.
- Rosanna Deerchild, “Bannock: A Brief History.” CBC NEWS. January 29, 2016. Accessed March 20, 2017. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/bannock-wild-meat-and-indigenous-food-sovereignty-1.3424436/bannock-a-brief-history-1.3425549.
Bibliography and further reading:
Iacovetta, Franca, Marlene Epp, and Valerie J. Korinek. Edible Histories, Cultural Politics towards a Canadian Food History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.
Tannahill, Reay. Food in History. New and Rev. ed. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.
Cooke, Nathalie., Canadian Electronic Library, and Cuisine Canada. What’s to Eat? Entrées in Canadian Food History. Montreal [Que.]: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.
Simpkins, James, Eleanor A. Ellis, Murray Shepherd, Maureen Lewis, Canada. Indian Northern Affairs Canada, Shepherd, Maureen, and Lewis, Peter. Northern Cookbook. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1967.
John Robert Colombo,”Bannock.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed March 20, 2017. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/bannock/.
Deerchild, Rosanna. “Bannock: A Brief History.” CBC NEWS. January 29, 2016. Accessed March 20, 2017. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/bannock-wild-meat-and-indigenous-food-sovereignty-1.3424436/bannock-a-brief-history-1.3425549.