In thinking about Indigenous cuisine, chances are that Bannock would be one of the first things that comes to mind. This popular baked good has been a staple within the Indigenous community and for good reason.
“Bannock has been a sustainability food for Indigenous people for hundreds of years now,” said Elijah Mack, owner of Kekuli Cafe.
“When it comes to bannock, it’s a part of our culture, it’s a part of who we are. When you’re wanting the authentic indigenous experience, you want to shoot for a good batch of fry bread and a good cup of tea. What also brings the experience to a higher authenticity is the story sharing with it.”
Mack remembers earliest memories of bannock with his mother, being exposed to this “comfort food” as early as four years old.
“Sometimes I’d come home from school and mom would have it just going into the fryer because she would wait until we got home so it’s fresh,” Mack recalled.
“To me that was so memorable because even after that long, exhausting day she would still make sure that we had something to eat. It was definitely something we looked forward to, coming home from school.”
Sharon Bond and Darren Hogg initially started Kekuli back in 2009. In 2018, Mack, at 22 years old, had franchised a store in Merritt.
“Her passion and what she was working on back then wasn’t only serving a piece of fry bread but also giving a really authentic experience,” said Mack about Bond.
“We have this frybread that we serve every single day and we also serve drinks that we grew up drinking as well. We package this in a setting where people feel welcomed. When I first came along in 2018 and was first introduced to Kekuli Cafe, I saw all these factors and it instantly made me feel like I belong.”
He is currently busy with the new Kekuli location in Kamloops, opening back on June 2. Kekuli is recognized as the first Indigenous cuisine franchise in Canada.
“To be able to open up our doors and have this Indigenous cuisine, it allows us to bridge the gap between people coming from all walks of life,” said Mack.
“It is such an honour to open this avenue up for everyone, whether you are Indigenous or not.”
The Merritt Herald had the pleasure of going back in the kitchen of Kekuli Cafe and seeing the process of how they make their delicious fry bread.
How to make bannock by Izaiah Reyes
“Every morning we come in and make fresh bannock at usually, 5 am,” said Debra Eisinga, Store Manager at Kekuli Cafe.
“Theres different variations of it and we actually bake ours as well as fry it.”
At it’s most basic form, bannock consists of the following ingredients.
Eisinga explained that they first mix the ingredients together to create the dough which they let rise for about 15 minutes. Afterwards, they portion it out and lay it out on their sheets ready to be baked or fried. Kekuli serves 17 variations of bannock.
“You will never, in your life, find two pieces of fry bread that tastes exactly the same,” Mack explained. “Every batch is made differently, even if its the same person making different batches. There’s so much work that goes into it that you have pretty much a new experience every time.”
“Its a knack definitely,” Eisinga added. “You’ve got to get the hang of it and it is time consuming to make the amount of bannock that we make.”
Mack said majority of Indigenous households would know how to make bannock. Referencing his memory, he recommends how first timers should have theirs.
“Personally if you’re going for the first time, I think you should have the original piece,” said Mack.
“I love having it right out of the fryer and I just like having butter on mine. I would have it with coffee in the morning and if it’s evening time I love having it with a cup of tea. Just the classic red rose tea, whatever you can get from your grandma’s cupboard because that’s how it was for me back in the day.”