Thursday, March 10, 2016


Charles O. Portfors, c. 1960
My mother seldom wrote down family history. I think most people don’t, just handing on those little stories as verbal history and hoping for the best. However, the other day, while reviewing a pile of vintage recipes, I came across this precious document in Mother’s handwriting, relating her father’s recipe for bannock.

Bannock is a quick flatbread baked in the round. When cut into wedges, the wedges are often called scones. You can read about bannock here.

Grandpa used to talk about making bannock over the campfire when he worked as a timber cruiser around the turn of the century. So, one day Mother took a notepad and pen and interviewed Grandpa as to his method of making bannock.

Timber cruising years
To make:
In a sack of flour, make an indentation with the palm of your hand. Put a little salt and baking powder into this indentation and stir lightly with index and third fingers. Add a little water and stir again until you can pick up the bannock. (Sometimes, if there is any, a little bacon grease can be added with the water.) Then pat it out into an iron skillet.

To bake:
Have your campfire hot and hold the skillet over the fire until the bannock begins to brown on the underside. Now, lay a row of sticks across the top of the fire and hold the skillet at an angle beside the fire and close to the ground so that the top of the bannock will bake in the reflected heat.

By giving your arm a slight circular motion and a little twist of the wrist you can slide the bannock around in the skillet so the top will brown evenly.
C.O. Portfors as a businessman.

Mother’s note: “At the turn of the century, my dad, C.O. Portfors, was famous for his bannock throughout the Clearwater and St. Joe Forests.”

Once – and this is a story I heard Grandpa tell – he arrived late at a cabin where he would spend the night. It was dark, but he knew where the provisions were, so he made his bannock. It was the best he ever made, he said. In the morning he discovered the flour was contaminated with – well, with rodent droppings. Grandpa told this story at the supper table, much to Mother’s discomfiture. “This story is not table conversation!” she whispered to me, but Grandpa chuckled away at the memory. 

I don't think Grandpa cooked much -- not like my dad -- but he prepared simple meals for himself after Grandma passed away. He said that when he and Grandma were married, she "couldn't boil water," and he taught her how to cook.  KW


Keri said...

I love hearing about my ancestors. I would love a copy of the pictures of Papa.

Chris said...

Loved this post and pictures. Dan loves forest history and sometimes I'll pick up one of his books. I've found your grandfather's name several times. Those men who lived in the woods had to have some cooking skills or they wouldn't eat. The meals may have been simple, but they were nutritious and filling.

Chuck said...

I loved this story, and the information you provided in the link. I was able to copy the entire article into Pages (Apple's word processor), along with the pictures. Now I have it in narrative form. Thanks for you effort.

Kathy said...

Well, it wasn't much effort. Mother wrote it down from Grandpa's dictation because she wanted to know. We should have asked more questions, but that's just how it is.

I wonder what provisions they would carry with them when they were out on their own. Canned beans to eat with the biscuits? Cured meats such as bacon or salt pork? I had to think the bannock would be better with a little bacon grease added.