Written By: Michelle Truong
In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October and National Native American Heritage Month in November, Common Threads invited Jenni Lessard, a Canadian-based chef and the Interim Executive Director of the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations, to share about her heritage and to conduct a cooking demo with an Indigenous recipe. Chef Lessard is an entrepreneur, consultant, mother and member of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, located in Canada.
Chef Jenni chose to prepare bannock, which simply means bread, along with rosehip butter and local berries. While preparing her quick and easy bannock, adapted from her Great Aunt’s recipe, Chef Jenni opened up about her life, inspirations, upbringing and her indigenous culture. While it wasn’t originally considered an indigenous food, bannock became common to nearly all of North America’s first peoples.
One reason for the popularity of bannock and its quick adoption as a dietary staple was that it could be made with the rations that were given to tribes after reserves were created. An Indian Reserve is land that was set aside under the Indian Act by the Crown (the government in Canada.) This Act was originally passed in 1876 and authorized the government to regulate and administer the day-to-day lives of registered Indians and reserve communities. Rations often included items like white flour, white sugar, lard, white rice and baking powder– all of which were foods that departed from native lean proteins and vegetables like bison, berries, and plants.
As Chef Jenni combined flour, wheat flour, brown sugar, oil and water into a sticky dough, we learned that bannock is as versatile as it is tasty. The dough can be made into a loaf, individual smaller flatbreads, pizza crust, and even cinnamon buns. As she kneaded the dough, Chef Jenni reflected on one of her first jobs, which was creating patient menus using indigenous ingredients for a children’s hospital. She recalls using bannock dough to wrap around pizza filling to create “pizza pops” which were eagerly enjoyed by the patients!
While the discussion was often light-hearted, Chef Jenni also shared about some of the dark past that was experienced by Indigenous people. Chef Jenni stopped herself from preparing any foods as she reflected on the sorrowful history of Indigenous people in Canada. One of the many things Chef Jenni shared is that your mood and thoughts while cooking can affect your food. She stressed that the way you cook and how you’re feeling makes a huge difference to your food. This is why she encourages the practice of thinking about things that make you feel happy and peaceful while cooking.
Common Threads agrees with Chef Jenni that preparing healthy meals and beloved cultural foods is good for the soul! Common Threads is grateful to Chef Jenni for sharing her heritage and her special recipe with us. We hope that in the spirit of celebrating history and food that you enjoy Chef Jenni’s bannock recipe below to prepare as a snack or a part of a feast for your own family!
Learn more about Chef Jenni by visiting her website https://www.jennilessard.com!
Materials: 1 large bowl, 1 cup measure, liquid measure cup (can use dry measure if necessary), measuring spoons, baking sheet and parchment paper
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ cup oil or melted lard
- 3 ½ to 4 cups cold water
- In a large bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, salt and brown sugar.
Add oil and then add water gradually, mixing with your hands until all the dry ingredients are incorporated
- Continue to add the water gradually until the dough is the consistency of a thick biscuit dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured counter and knead for a few minutes.
- Form the dough into a 12 inch by 12-inch circle and bake 30-35 min at 375 F or until golden brown.