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  • Writer's pictureJen Greenway

Struggling With Bannock

This one's too flat...raise the temperature.

This one's too have to flip it quicker.

Nope, this one looks like a pancake again...

I can hear my Grandma tut-tut in my head and I know she's right behind me shaking her head in bemusement. Honestly, I'm confused too. I remember them being thick pillowy clouds in her cast iron frying pan - a far cry from the deflated balloons on my pan.

I sigh, frustrated but mostly embarrassed.

Maybe the batter isn't thick enough. I remember it being thicker. Oh! And didn't she use to put Bisquick in it? Shit. I don't have that.

I sigh again and lift one of my bann-cakes off the cooling plate to rip in half.

"What the- "

Instead of ripping, the bann- cake stretches and bounces back into place. What a nightmare. I can practically hear my Grandma giggling with glee as she slaps the top of her thigh.

"It's the taste that counts," I whine, my embarrassment growing. I can tell she's waiting for me to test my cooking.

It does eventually rip and I'm eager to redeem myself, even just a bit. Quickly, I toss the piece in my mouth and begin chewing. Within seconds, I’m no longer embarrassed. No, as I’m trying to chew the small piece of rubber, I instantly switch through a multitude of emotions. Shock. Disappointment. Shame. And then... laughter.

What’s it taste like?

...French fries….

We're both amused, and I concede that this batch is a write-off, and so is the flour. Looks like I'll need to find another gluten-free flour that isn't made of potatoes.

Not being one to waste, the next morning I grab a piece of bann-cake to try with my breakfast. After all, it'll be like hashbrowns, right? Bann-browns? No, let's not start that.

This time, I can barely rip the bun in half! Something in the dough has solidified overnight...Alright bann-cake, you win. I look around the empty kitchen, wishing someone could help me out. You can really only Google so much.

Then suddenly comes the shame again, and I know it's a shame that a lot of Indigenous individuals grapple with daily. I should know how to do these things. We should all know how to do these things, but our opportunities to learn are still taken away to this day.

Luckily, I have fast-moving emotions and my shame quickly moves through the cycle: anger, disappointment, back to guilt... I run through the usual list of negative emotions until—

But what did they taste like?

And we both start giggling again.

That's when it hits me. Yes, I should have been given the opportunity to learn and master my cultural skills. Having that taken away will never be okay. But these everyday attempts to reclaim our connections and to rebuild our Knowledge are what resilience is, and the fun and humour we find in experiencing our learning environment is the ultimate callback to our Indigeneity.

My Grandma is quickly gone again, probably to go laugh about my bann-cakes with her sisters and her mum, but this time I don't feel sad or alone.

Buckwheat? That might give it more crumble and less stretch (haha). Teff? Teff has a great sourdough flavour - very Yukon-themed...did Grandma like sourdough?

No, today I'm excited. Just like my ancestors, I'm now a scientist. I get to experiment and get my hands doughy- I get to observe different textures and different sounds while I rebuild and co-create family knowledge. This combination doesn't work, and maybe the next ten will be even worse. Is that possible? But even if I haven't yet mastered this skill, or updated it to fit my current celiac lifestyle, I'll now remember to always approach these "experiments" from a place of Indigeneity. That is to say, I now remember to approach them from a place of love, healing, relationality, respect, reciprocity and, yes, humour.

I've said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Knowledge that our ancestors take Spirit side is not lost forever. Though it's daunting to imagine rebuilding all that Knowledge, it's only our human egos that are preventing us from fully embracing the challenge.

My Grandma spoke as I cooked. She spoke as I shame spiralled. She laughed with me when I was low.

We can ask for help. Of course, you don't have to ask Spirits who have passed, but there are Beings all around you who hold Knowledge, both human and non-human. Reach out, observe, listen and reciprocate. We won't have what we once had and it won't taste like we remember, but we can create something new yet contextual and relational all the same.

I’ll keep working on my bann-cakes— I mean bannock!



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