Neal McLeod's new novel
Neechie Hustle (Kegedonce Press), takes a satirical look at history, the Indian Act, and the emergence of "neechie swagger" in the '60s and '70s. It also has a culinary focus, prominently featuring
bannock, a traditional Indigenous baked or pan-fried bread. While there are several variations of bannock, we were lucky enough to have Neal's friend, Geraldine Bekkattla, provide us with a traditional baked recipe. Read on to see how it all turned out!
The passage that made us want to try our hand at making bannock came from early on in Neechie Hustle when the main character, Senator, describes a time just after WWII:
"Despite not having electricity and not having running water, one of the things that seemed to keep people going was the smell of freshly made bannock. The smell of bannock would just sink into their skin. The smell was something that just seemed to soak into someone’s being. The best bannock on the reserve was, of course, made by Nadine’s ohkoma – her grandmother. They say that her recipe was very old and its stretch of existence and transmission went back as far as anyone could remember – and for Cree people, that was a pretty long time of remembering."
The whole novel is filled with vivid descriptions of bannock baking, the smell of grease, and the taste of fresh bread. (Cue growling stomach.) How could we not try it for ourselves?
To help us with our bannock-making adventure, Geraldine Bekkattla provided a simple recipe for us to try. With only five ingredients and a few steps to go, we rolled up our sleeves and started baking.
4 cups flour2 tbsp baking powder 1 tsp sugar 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 cup lard 1 1/2 cups warm water
Ingredients all ready to go!
First we mixed the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and lard in a large bowl and blended until it resembled a grainy texture. Then we made a well in the centre, added warm water, and mixed it all up with our hands to make dough.
Next was the fun part: we kneaded the dough on a floured surface until the dough became silky, then transferred it to a floured pie pan (or you could use a cookie sheet). Once we pierced the dough with a fork, we baked it in the oven at 375℃ for 20 minutes. Then we took it out of the pan, turned it over gently, and let it bake on the rack for 5-7 minutes.
As you can probably tell by the photo, the bread was crusty on the outside, but doughy in the middle. Add some butter or jam and it makes a tasty breakfast treat! Next time we plan to try a pan-fried version to get the best of both bannock-tasting experiences.
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Thanks so much to Neal and Geraldine for providing us with a recipe to try, and to Patricia at Kegedonce Press for making the connection and sharing
Neechie Hustle with us! Get your copy starting September 18.
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