In my previous marriage, we used to spend a lot of time on Prince Edward Island in the summer. Although I was born on the Island, it was only an accident of birth, because that was where my father was posted with the Canadian Airforce at the time. My ex-husband's family, however, had a long history there, going back to some of the first Scottish settlers on the Island, back in the days when the Island was nothing but trees and native North Americans. The Ramsays ended up on the Island when their ship, The Annabella, was ship-wrecked in Malpeque Bay. The Annabella had been heading for the Virginia Colonies when a storm blew it off course and the rest is history. It is said that the survivors would have starved or frozen to death that first winter, were it not for the Natives who so generously helped them out.
My late father in law came from a very large farming family, consisting mainly of girls. I think there were only two or three sons. He was the baby of the family. Most of his sisters, with the exception of one, had moved down to the Boston, New England area before and after WW2. The same thing happened in my own family. There was a lot of prosperity in America as compared to the Maritimes, which was than and still is a somewhat economically depressed area.
The old gals (as we called the sisters) used to come up to their cottage on the Malpeque Bay every summer, where they would spend a couple of months taking in the sea air and re-connecting with their roots. The air rang with the sound of hearty card games and raucous laughter. I think the game was 45's but I can't say for sure, because I have never been a great card player. I'm too slow.
I loved to watch however, and many an afternoon was spent watching the cards being dealt and listening to all the war stories and family tales. The Sister that had stayed back on the Island used to do all the cooking. She would bake these Bannocks frequently. Her name was Rita. She was like a little bird. I loved her to pieces. She was a really kind and caring woman.
Ever the foodie, I would watch her making these. All of the ingredients used to get measured right out onto the counter-top, her quick hands deftly managing them into a dough that was then cut and baked into these beautiful light and oaty bannocks.
I can still remember the first time I saw her making them, I thought it was cheese she was mixing in, but it was cold butter which she had grated. I tend to cut the butter into bits and rub it in with my fingertips. Both ways work well.
Don't be tempted to use old fashioned oats in these, unless you blitz them in a food processor for a few seconds to break them down. This is one time you want to be using the quick oats. Old fashioned oats are too coarse.
Aunt Rita cut hers into squares, whereas I cut them into rectangles. Not a scrap of the dough is wasted. With a light touch, and no re-working of scraps you are rewarded with a dozen light as air golden brown slightly nubbly/nutty textured scones. Because that is really all a Bannock is . . . a Scottish Scone. But shhh . . . don't tell anyone I said that. I wouldn't want to start a War over it or anything.
What a wonderful time those years were, spending those summer afternoons out on the bay. The air was cool,because we were right on the water. The children and I used to walk up and down the sand and grasses, picking wild rhubarb that I would then make into pies and jam. Good times!
I don't know how the rhubarb ended up growing there but it worked kind of the same as wild strawberries do . . . it was thinner, smaller, and filled with a lot more flavour than the regular stuff.
In any case, I hope you will bake these lovely Bannocks, and when you do, please raise a nice hot cuppa to Aunt Rita and the old gals . . . and hot summer afternoons spent playing cards and picking wild rhubarb on sands of Malpeque Bay . . .
*Malpeque Oat Bannocks*Makes 12
60g cold butter (1/4 cup), cut into bits180ml whole milk