My first experience with bannock was at a kind of summer festival in southern Alberta when I was 10 years old.
To this day, I’m not sure what the festival was called or what the people were even celebrating but it was held on an open prairie landscape near a town called Acme. The flat and grassy landscape was peppered with tents of all kinds for as far as the eye could see – which on the prairie, was pretty far.
Next to a long lineup of kids my own age (that were busy making plant fibre ropes with some sort of mysterious wheel contraption) were a group of men and women cooking berry-riddled bread on a stick over an open fire.
A lover of food even back then; I boldly asked if I could try some of the fascinating stick bread that smelled so good. I’m still unsure as to why they found the question as funny as they did but it brought on a chorus of laughter from the entire group that was contagious.
When our laughter died I was handed a foil covered chunk of the bannock and told to share it with my friends. Spying none of my pre-established friends around me, I tore the bannock in half and offered it to the girl amongst the group of bannock makers that looked to be about my age. This caused an even bigger uproar of laughter than before, but the laughter didn’t last long.
There was a storm brewing that day that up until then had passed for a few harmless clouds. At that moment, the entire festival erupted into writhing chaos as hail stones the size of marbles bombarded our heads. We scattered in different directions and I remember straining to hear my father’s voice over the noise of the panic and booming rolls of thunder. Frustrated, I decided instead to shelter myself under a picnic table with the same girl I had shared my bannock with moments before.
The girl my own age in that group around the bannock fire became one of my best Albertan childhood friends that day and throughout that year taught me all that my childhood curiosity could inquire about her culture and the Cree way of life. It wasn’t until much later though that I learned how to make:
Cree Campfire Bannock
6 cups flour
1 cup lard or shortening
2 ½ tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
2 cups berries (any kind)
3 ½ cups of water
Start a small controlled campfire. In a large bowl, cut lard into the flour. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix well. Add flour gradually while gently kneading the dough until uniform. On cleaned wooden sticks, envelope a handful of bannock dough over the tip of the stick and wrap the dough tightly onto it in a spiral. Place over the fire without touching the flames and occasionally rotate to avoid scorching similar to the method of roasting hot dogs. The bannock is done when the outside is golden brown. Makes about 4 servings.
Thanks for reading! Ninaaskomtin!