Traditionally a large round heavy flat cake of unleavened barley or oats cooked cooked in a pan that could girdle it about (a griddle). Bannuc has been made in Scotland, Ireland and northern England since before the 8th century. It was often cooked directly on a flat piece of sandstone shoved into a fire.
Almost every culture has an unleavened flat bread that sustained them, acorns, camas bulbs, maize, wheat… and over time as we discovered leavening they became the basic staple comfort foods that we have today. Queue de castor, pfannkuchen, våffla, youtiao, churras, chiacchiere, hush puppies and naan.
It is considered to be one of the two national Canadian dishes found everywhere in the 450 odd years of sustenance and settlement in the northern half of the continent, all the way to the arctic.
The most recognized ‘traditional’ bannock comes from the supplies that were available for trade through the Hudson’s Bay company and eaten by traders and trappers anywhere in the country a good fur pelt could be found. Later it would be associated with the supplies the English doled out to indigenous people to compensate the loss of the traditional land and the food resources that sustained them.
Hearty and simple like the canadiens, it is a valuable, hardworking, forgiving, and practical dough ready for even the most rudimentary conditions of survival.
Without going the whole hog and crushing the grains between two rocks to start; this is one of the oldest and simplest recipes that has stood the test of time from coast to coast to coast.
2 3/4 cups of flour are stirred together with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 3 tablespoons of lard are cut into the flour with two knives and 2/3 of a cup of ice cold water are gradually stirred in until there remains a slightly sticky dough.
This is rolled out or flattened into a cast iron pan until the edges are girdled so they don’t split apart (my pan was too big). Alternately, the rolled dough can be cut into strips and wrapped around a stick and cooked directly over a fire.
The pan is placed over a fire and the bread flipped once. Slathered in butter and served with a hearty soup. it can be made anywhere. A vacant lot, under a bridge, by the side of a lake, and even in your kitchen. A living heritage of survival.