From bulgogi to borscht, from burritos to biryani, Edmonton’s restaurant scene is a multicultural buffet. But when it comes to bannock, and other First Nations foods, our palates aren’t as adventurous as they could be.
Ian Gladue, co-owner of Native Delights and award-winning bannock maker, has been sharing his love for First Nations food with Edmontonians for years.
“My goal is to keep our traditional ways alive,” he says. “I believe that I was gifted with this, in a good way, to help those understand our culture in a positive way.”
We asked him to share some knowledge on this traditional delicacy of Treaty 6 land.
What is bannock?
Bannock is a type of flatbread. It can be baked, fried, or cooked over a campfire.
What are some different varieties of bannock?
There isn’t one single way to make bannock. Every family has its own recipe. Gladue learned to make bannock by watching his mother and grandmother, then came up with his own unique recipe over two weeks of passionate experimentation. Now he modifies his recipe with a blend of traditional and modern ingredients.
“We try to create something fun and exciting for everyone,” he says. “So we have Reese’s Pieces baked bannock. We have Skor baked bannock. We have chocolate chip baked bannock. We even just brought one out today, it’s a cheese-infused baked bannock. So we’re always trying to have fun with it, but still always going back to the roots.”
What are the essential ingredients for good bannock?
“Prayer and love,” Gladue says. “You can’t be angry. There are feelings to it. You have to care for what you’re doing. You have to respect what you’re doing. So if people are having a bad day and they’re trying to make bannock, I won’t let them. Because the energies that we give off, we’re transferring over.”
When was bannock first made?
Modern bannock is usually made from flour (introduced by Scottish immigrants, who also gave the dish its name) but First Nations Albertans made bannock for generations before colonization.
“We used a lot of corn. We used a lot of grains. We even used bark and berries and sap from the trees,” Gladue says. “Once we became more colonized then the flour was launched out. But if you go to traditional ceremonies, you’ll see a lot of our traditional foods there that still go back hundreds of years.”
Where can you find bannock in Edmonton?
Native Delights does the summer festival circuit and participates in various indoor markets in the winter. They post their location daily on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter.
Why should you try bannock?
One because it’s delicious, and two because it’s an indisputably Canadian food in our local multicultural smorgasbord.
“People travel to Canada and they want to try authentic Canada cuisine,” Gladue says. “And what do they get to try? Maple syrup. What is more authentic than First Nations cuisine?