Over the fire, I held a stick wrapped with bread dough. Not unlike roasting a marshmallow, the bread turns brown and puffs up on the stick.
A Mi’kmaq Interpreter is teaching us to make Four Cents Bread as part of the Eskasoni Cultural Journey www.eskasoniculturaljourneys.ca on Goat Island, in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
Four Cents Bread was made traditionally as an inexpensive; take anywhere bread that was made with three simple ingredients.
Four Cents Bread
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tbsp. baking powder
- Water, as needed to make a dough texture.
This bread could be cooked by forming the dough into a disc shape and cooking over the fire on a metal sheet or by wrapping it around a stick and cooking it directly over the fire. And… it was delicious.
To learn about the Mi’kmaq ways of the past on an Eskasoni Cultural Journey, we walked on a path with views of the lake through the forest. At different spots along the path, an interpreter in traditional Mi’kmaq attire greeted us. They spent time telling us of their traditional customs and ways. We learned of how they hunted moose and other animals, made and heated their homes through the long winters, made baskets and clothing, sang and danced, played games and lived a self sufficient life. A life that should not be forgotten.
The land provided all the food needed. Flag root was chewed, spruce buds made tea to help fever and sore teeth and many plants, roots and berries were collected for food
The Cape Breton Mi’kmaq fished the waters for the many gifts of the sea. In the Bras D’or Lakes, huge inland salt-water bodies of water there were many fish. Eels were and still are a coveted delicacy. They were fished by using a torch to attract them in the night. Eels were then baked, fried or used in stews soups.
When we returned to the cultural centre, I felt honoured to be served a bowl of eel soup, made by a woman named Sugar that morning. She shared with me her simple recipe of eel, cut in pieces, potatoes, onions and broth from cooking the mixture. Picturing a slimy, black eel cutting through the water did not match the fine taste of the tender, tasty flesh I pulled away from the bone.We ate it with Lu’sknikn bread and fresh strawberries.
After our meal, Sugar showed us a centuries old game, played with sticks, dice and a wooden bowl. It is still popular today. As she showed us, someone pointed out an eagle. Sugar stopped what she was doing, looked up and quietly sang a chant.
“A very good sign,” she told us, “when an eagle flies over.”
The food I tasted that day was made with all the care and using the flavours and methods of the past. It is a Mi’kmaq custom to give thanks daily for what the land has given them. I felt a deep, heartfelt privilege to learn the food customs of our First People.
Recipe for Lu’sknikn Bread – recipe courtesy of the Eskasoni Cultural Journeys
- 4-6 cups of flour
- 5 tablespoons of baking powder
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 2 cups of water
- Vegetable oil
- Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl
- Part dry ingredients in the centre and 2 cups of water
- Mix ingredients together (adding more water if needed)
- Form dough to fit frying pan
- Add vegetable oil to frying pan and pre-heat over medium high temperature
- Place dough in frying pan (adding more oil if needed)
- Cook until golden brown and then turn over.