There’s something unifying in all cultures about fried bread; whether it’s Mexican sopapillas, fried Irish soda farls, or the ubiquitous North American frybread or bannock, wherever there is fried bread, there’s good eating! “It tastes good, and fresh out of the pan it makes you feel good. It’s just one of those great things that brings people together!” says Kekuli Café co-owner Sharon Bond who ‘jumped into the bannock biz’ in 2004 to sell bannock from a window at a small concession stand. Fast forward 15 years later and Kekuli has grown to a franchise in Merritt with a second on the way, a food truck— the Bannock Mobile!—and a busy café with a bright patio in Westbank, Okanagan.
“When we opened our café in 2009, I had no idea whether we’d succeed,” says Bond. “I used to Google ‘First Nations food + restaurants’ but I couldn’t find anything. I just wondered, ‘who’s gonna come for bannock?’ But when we opened there were line-ups for weeks on end!” Years later those crowds hungry for the taste of fresh-made bannock still come, and there’s plenty of first-time bannock eaters in the mix too. Bond and her team are used to explaining to the uninitiated what bannock is, “I tell them it’s a kind of bread; we stretch it, fry it but it’s way better than a doughnut! Bannock was a survival bread for many Indigenous People and they needed to make it taste good, one of my Nooaitch Nation elders told me that traditionally they would add bitterroot, or sunflower stems to it to thicken the bannock, or they’d add Saskatoon berries for sweetness, which grow in abundance on our traditional territory.”
You can taste those Saskatoons on the menu in salad dressings and delicious fruity iced teas too along with other traditional ingredients including wild smoked salmon, venison and of course sweet syrup on the maple-glazed bannock that’s so good you’ll give up fast-food chain doughnuts forever! Coffee comes from the Indigenousowned Spirit Bear Company and you can also sip wines from neighbours Indigenous World Winery and Osoyoosbased Nk’Mip.
So, what’s next for Bond’s thriving fast-casual bannock biz? “I want Kekulis across Canada!” she grins. “We are so versatile, bannock works for everyone and every community has its own recipe; here in BC our most popular item is our wild salmon breakfast bannock, imagine the traditional foods of Alberta with bison, or even moose in Newfoundland?!” If you’re craving a taste of Bond’s fluffy, fresh-made, hot-from-the-pan delights, take heart in the company motto: ‘Don’t panic… we have bannock!’ hopefully available soon across Canada!