When I was a teenager, I dreamt of living in a forest up north with a pack of sled dogs. It wasn't a very practical dream - and what dreams are indeed practical - and I hadn't thought of how on earth that fantasy would, or could, be translated into reality. I simultaneously nourished and quelled my northern dreams by attending sled dog races every winter, my favourite of which was in the tiniest of hamlets outside Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The village of Crutwell. Every January, dozens of mushers and their canine compatriots would descent on this community and the frigid air would be filled with the finest of madness: deliriously excited huskies that would fall silent as soon as they broke into a gallop.
Sled dogs don't bark when they run. If you've ever watched "Iron Will" or "Snow Dogs," the barking heard during sled runs was dubbed in post-production. Just so you know. After the teams took off down the trail, I'd head for Crutwell community hall to warm up and indulge in a bannock burger. Each bite was a juicy, homemade beef patty cradled in a tender, just-baked bannock bun. Those burgers were the stuff of dreams.
It's been well over 15 years since I had a bannock burger, and when I caught wind that Bannock Burger just opened, I made a run for northwest Edmonton. This burger spot is hidden inside a soccer club, so come expecting to sit among innumerable soccer parents watching their progeny kick a ball around on the other side of a glass wall. They do not have a debit machine, nor is there an ATM on site, so cash is a must. The kitchen staff is cheerful and clearly reveling in their new venture. We order two bannock burgers: one with cheese and mushrooms, and one with cheese and bacon. Unfortunately, our food takes 40 minutes to arrive. I'm trying to eavesdrop on kitchen conversation, and gather that they've run out of bannock completely. There are always kinks in the system after an opening. All is forgiven when our burgers finally, mercifully, arrive. The bannock - and this kind is deep-fried as opposed to baked - is fluffy and cloud-like. The patties themselves are very juicy, the cheese is gooey, and the mushrooms and bacon are properly sauteed. I close my eyes and imagine myself back in Crutwell community hall, fingers and nose still cold after a stint in the January cold, still giddy from the sled dog-induced adrenalin. I no longer dream of living in the bush, but I'll head to Bannock Burger when my stomach growls for northern comfort food once more.