17) Make (or eat) a traditional local dish.
I struggled with overthinking this prompt. I can’t hear the words ‘traditional’ or ‘local’ without immediately thinking of the First Nations People who occupied this territory for thousands of years where as the European (my heritage) settlement is only a hundred some odd years old. I asked a few members from the band what they considered traditional/local and other than veganizing deer, moose or salmon – I could have dehydrated and smoked watermelon I guess…. damn that would have been good! foraged foods like soapberries and spring beauties have already been harvested. If I knew my wild mushrooms better I could have hunted those out. Across the board everyone suggested bannock. First People used nuts, tubers and berries to produce a dough that could be baked in a clay oven, roasted on a stick over a fire -I’ve had it like this, it’s amazing!-, or even rolled in sand and cooked under a bed of hot stones, the sand brushes off once it’s firm.
European settlement and fur trading brought flour, sugar and oil/butter into their diet which also brought the method of deep frying or pan frying the dough, now common ways to cook bannock. The first settler to this area was Irish and set up cattle ranching and planted fruit trees. This region is well known for its peaches, apples, pears, plums, apricots and now wine, lots and lots of wine.
With all this in mind I made a simple dough pan fried on cast iron. One member of the band said he regularly makes ‘Indian pizza or tacos’ with bannock and vegetables except he also adds game meat to it. Thinking of a gamy taste I opened my pantry and pulled out a jar of mom’s pickled green walnuts. She traditionally serves it with lamb.
She’s Australian and her father and his father were butchers in Williamstown. When I was eighteen years old and vegan, visiting my grandparents in Australia, my Nana accepted I wouldn’t eat dairy or eggs/animal flesh but specifically could not understand why I wouldn’t eat lamb. She even tried sneaking it in on me.
I had bannock and woodsy tasting, pickled walnuts. I had a Macintosh apple which would have been one of the varieties planted upon settlement. I needed something creamy to balance this out and picnics are pretty traditional around here. I made the Garden Herb Spread from Isa’s Vegan Brunch but instead of the herbs she suggests I used fresh sage and rosemary which worked with the apple and walnut. A mash up of traditions but I liked it.
The knife was made by my blacksmith friend Mick. He used the metal from an old industrial band saw blade, full tang with a sharp butt end he describes as ‘the window breaker’. If I found a dog sealed up in a hot car, I’d use it. The wood comes from a Macintosh tree. It was curious cutting an apple with the handle of its own family. It felt a bit callous as I picnicked this tradition-ish, local meal.