In History

Bannock is also known as skaan (or scone) or Indian Bread and is found throughout North American Indigenous cuisine, including that of the Inuit, First Nations and Métis. The word "bannock" comes from the Scots dialect of English with its first mention in literature of the 8th century. Historically it was used mostly in Ireland, Scotland and northern England.  That said, it may have been common in various forms in pre-Columbian exchange Indigenous societies.

Original bannocks were heavy, flat cakes of barley and oatmeal. Today most are made with baking powder as a leavening agent. They can be made from a variety of ingredients and sometimes are made for special occasions. The most common type of bannock from Scotland is Selkirk bannock - fruitcake like - make from wheat flour and with many raisins. It is named after the town of Selkirk where a baker produced it. Queen Victoria is reputed to have taken her tea with Sir Walter Scott's granddaughter when she visited her at his estate known as Abbotsford.

A type of bannock existed prior to contact with Europeans amongst the Indigenous peoples of the New World. Flour was made from maize, roots etc. from the land. As access to plants and animals native to the traditional lands become more and more restricted by the influx of non-indigenous settlers, the Indigenous peoples came to rely more and more on government rations - typically wheat flour, sugar, lard and butter. These ingredients were high calorie, low nutrient ingredients but they were shelf-stable and capable of being shipped long distances. For the Indigenous peoples they survived on this despite the loss of access to country foods. There are some who regard this as part of the legacy of colonialism and of assimilation. Because of the lack of nutrients, bannock may also have contributed to diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

But one has to put this into perspective. For the Scots and the Irish in particular, starvation was a reality and so was their impoverished lifestyle. They ate peasant food for they had little wealth and could not afford luxury foods. For many, leaving their homeland to immigrate to Canada (or the United States) gave them a chance of a better life. Haggis, for example, was not a rich man's food but rather a form of "humble pie" - as were turnips, potatoes and oats. 

Nutritionally, bannock can be improved by improving the ingredients - using whole wheat, buckwheat, oats, nuts; better sources of fat such as olive oil; adding local berries; etc.