HAVING lately apostrophized my boyhood beagle, Beevo, here, I had him in mind as I next passed the pet food display in the store, so I dallied with the brands and kinds. It thus took about 10 minutes to pass, and I was amazed at the gustatory choices now available to pups and pussies. Beevo, I swan, would be likewise amazed, for in his time provender remained unsophisticated and he subsisted on bannock. I found no bannock on the supermarket shelf.Skip to next paragraph
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Larousse never heard of bannock, for dogs or not, and good Fannie Farmer is equally silent. The Encyclopedia of European Cooking says a bannock is made of flour and should be baked in a hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes. But my nifty neighbor novelist, Elisabeth Ogilvie, says that in the Outer Hebrides a bannock is always oatmeal and strictly top-of-stove. Oatmeal sounds right for Highland cates and dainties, but Beevo was never subjected to the cruel and abusive treatments native there.
Dedicated dog buffs may chide me about Beevo's diet, but he got the same thing every meal all his days. He was fed only once a day, in the morning, and he was trained never to touch food except from his own dish. Even when I brought him a bone (in those days a butcher hove scrap doggie bones into a box by the door, and customers could select from it for free), he wouldn't touch it until I laid it in his dish. He would sit there all a-twitter, drooling like a fountain, but holding himself obedient. Good dog! I needed four dishes to feed Beevo. White enamel bowls. I carried out two, with food and water, before I had breakfast, and brought back the two from yesterday.
We had a great grain box in the barn; zinc-lined compartments for each of the numerous feeds. No oatmeal, but there were whole oats - and then middlings, bran , scratch feed, growing mash, dairy ration, laying mash, and cornmeal. I selected for Beevo from that chest. Mostly, I chose cornmeal, and then added handfuls from other bins, giving him variety. But a dog isn't all that discerning; he'll eat the same thing over and over with gusto. It's the dog owner who responds to the pet-food ploy. I used to smile to myself whenever I fixed Beevo some laying mash, picturing him in whimsy up in a hen's nest.
I hope a Scot somewhere will support Elisabeth and me in the griddle-cake nature of a bannock. It was not originally meant for dogs. Elisabeth tells me an Isle of Lewis bannock starts with two-thirds of a cup of oatmeal, plus a bit for kneading. Have a couple of tablespoons of melted fat and a quarter of a cup of warm water. Stir a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt into the oatmeal, and then make a well in the middle. Pour the fat and the water into the well, and stir to a stiff paste. Roll this in oatmeal and cook on the top of the stove so you have a sort of fritter no more than a half inch thick and about the size of a plate. Cut this in strips with your sgian dubh, find somebody to blow a bagpipe, and eat it.
By Beevo's time both the bannock and its purpose had changed for the better. I had a discarded kitchen pot still useful, and I'd dip it into the cornmeal, add a dollop of pig bran or a doit of Lay-or-Bust, and stir in bacon fat from the kitchen. We had Liverpool salt and we had black molasses. For rising, I'd sneak some baking powder, but if I added a couple of eggs I cut down on that. I always heard that a dog shouldn't get milk, but I stirred Beevo's bannock into a mix with new milk and I never knew him to complain. Sometimes I'd sneak Beevo's bannock into Mother's oven, but more often I brought it to semi-petrification on an outdoor fireplace I had for boyish purposes. A batch would go Beevo about a week, but it took more and more warm milk each time to soften it.
It crosses my mind that Purina or National Biscuit or Quaker Oats may take my recipe, above, and add my Beevo Bannock to the pet food display. Accordingly, I have left out one vital ingredient - they'll have to come to terms with me.