Jillian Brooks of Métis Bannock Queen shares how her family tradition of baking bannock and financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic collided to create a business
Joss Arnott // Staff Writer
When Jillian Brooks first moved to Vancouver fifteen years ago, her mother gave her a recipe book. Inside it were notes and recipes handwritten by her grandfather. Amongst the pages was his personal recipe for bannock, a type of quick fry bread made of unleavened flour. While her grandfather passed away in 2019, Brooks still uses his recipes to carry on that legacy in her own business, The Métis Bannock Queen.
Brooks runs her business entirely on Instagram, as well as occasional pop up shops at local farmer markets around the Greater Vancouver Area. Her bannock flavours are seasonal, and her fall/winter options include plain, kohkosiwiyin picikwâs (bacon and apple), âpakosîsi-mîciwin wêchekaskosê (cheese and chive), and maskêkominâna osâwâpiy (cranberry and lemon) are available for $10-12 each ($13 for the vegan option).
“It’s like celebrating his life through the recipe that he gave me,” Brooks added, mentioning how even during her grandfather’s funeral, the downstairs of the church was littered with bannock. This sense of tradition and family legacy is at the heart of Métis Bannock Queen. Brooks uses her grandfather’s recipe to share her heritage and support local charities such as the Hogan’s Alley Society and the Native Urban Native Youth Association. “A lot of my grandfather’s philosophy was to give back if you can,” said Brooks. “If you have stability in yourself and in your career, then it’s your duty as a human being to help others.”
JA: How long have you been baking bannock?
JB: I started [making bannock] in the summer for this business. But I’ve been making bannock since I was a kid with my family.
JA: How did Métis Bannock Queen start?
JB: The bannock business came out of a necessity due to COVID. The boxing gym that I used to coach at was not doing well financially. So, I started it as a means to raise money. I put some feelers out online and the response was quite incredible. You put good vibes out into the universe and they’ll come back to you.
JA: What makes bannock special to you?
JB: It’s my family and it’s my heritage, [these are] traditions that I’m passing on to future generations, and it’s just so calming and relaxing. Especially nowadays where everything is so unpredictable and you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s been very therapeutic for me. Also just learning more about my history and my culture. And learning more about my Grandfather’s side of his family who had always lived on Treaty 8 in Fort McMurray.
JA: What’s the process involved in making your bannock? What’s the magic element?
JB: Bannock is pretty simple, it’s only five ingredients: flour, 2% milk, margarine, sugar and baking powder. But the thing with bannock is every family has a different iteration of doing it. The Métis version of bannock is baked. Other nations will deep fry them, but fried bread is very different [from] bannock. Bannock is traditionally cooked over an open fire.
JA: What’s your favourite part of this business?
JB: Bringing people together and educating them a bit about my Métis culture and history. I make sure that every post that I do, I do something about the bannock and the next post will be an educational post — talking about the medicine line or why sage is so sacred to my people,traditions that we pass through generations.
JA: What’s the best way for people to get your bannock?
JB: Instagram. People just message me privately and then I send them how they transfer the money and what options are available for flavours. I do pickups once a week every Friday between 6:30pm and 7:30pm. I work out of [a] kitchen called Bad Apple, on Hastings and Nanaimo.
Find Jillian Brooks on Instagram at @themetisbannockqueen.