There is something about Kindness that touches me deeply. I type this with one hand and eating a piece of deep-fried goodness. It’s called bannock.
I love bannock, in a variety of forms, but today it’s not what has filled me up. It’s kindness.
Two heads appeared at the back door during dinner rush tonight with raised eyebrows and a request for two eggs and a quarter cup of baking powder. “We’re making bannock” the emissaries said. The young guides had been sent to fetch the staples and a glance out the window told me the others were preparing the portable propane stoves to deep fry.
“We brought some moose meat too!” I was told. Ah. I wondered at supper why no one stuck around for seconds.
The guides like to mix it up once in a while. It’s not an offense to our cooking; I understand it well. Moose meat and bannock is home food, like biscuits, goulash and beef barley soup is mine.
Most of the guides are from a small settlement near here of about one hundred people. A few come from further towns and most stay in the bunkhouse at the end of the island for their 4-7 day shifts between visits home. Some are here most of the summer. Almost all are Cree – lending a heritage to what home cooking might mean.
“A nice night for bannock.” I mentioned. Outside the freezer shack was cooler than our 800-degree kitchen.
“Want some?” She had a plate of it with her pile of meats. “They had moose meat, too! It was good.”
With all of our hands full, I passed on it but appreciated the offer. After finishing my business and heading out the door I said hello to Pat, putting the final touches on the evening event’s clean up.
I asked him how his second-supper was, and he smiled and caught the Lord of the Rings reference. Walking back to the bunkhouses we passed Billy and Wally, my earlier emissaries.
“The guides want words with you, Anne” said one. He never quite seems to remember if I’m “Anne” or “Anna” so it mostly comes out Ann, with a hint of a vowel at the end. (I’ve accepted it. But nobody else is allowed to call me Anne!)
“Oh?” I raised an eyebrow. “Sounds like I’m in trouble!”
Pat chuckled. I said I’d stop by.
I wasn’t in trouble. I was a guest. They had some bannock and moose meat for me to try. It was delicious. But more so, it was an honour.
An honour to be thought of, included, and invited in. An honour to share some food, moments, and without even words, a culture.
I was quiet as I tried the moose meat, fried in oil and onions with gravy.
“She doesn’t like it.” one of them said – perhaps half joking.
“No. I really like it! I was savouring it.” And I told them how it reminded me of Hoshuur and Peroshki, in Mongolia. It had a similar taste, the meat paired with deep-fried bannock. And I was a little lost in thought as I remembered a time of kindness there, too.
I was remembering the lady who fed me binsch (soup.)
Not wanting to offend, I smiled and made amends, talking food and checking out the TV screen before bringing a piece of bannock to my barracks, savouring sweetness.
I forget how I need people to be kind to me.
It’s a powerful thing, and humbling – to be shared with, to be thought of. It fills me up and empties me out, all at the same time.
It is a powerful thing.