“Food is medicine, and every dish that comes out of my kitchen gets blessed with healing energy,” said Chef Jessica Pāēmonēkot, Chicago’s first and only Native American Executive Chef, at Can O’ Comedy’s ‘An Indigenous Christmas’ event Wednesday evening.
Can O’ Comedy founder, Stoner Nataly, blessed Pāēmonēkot’s dishes with an additional healing component: cannabis. Pāēmonēkot, who belongs to the Menominee Tribe, operates Ketapanen Kitchen (Ketapanen to mean a Menominee expression of love). The infused meal was provided to attendees of An Indigenous Christmas at The Joy Room, a private events space lushly decorated for prime Instagram photo-ops. An intimate crowd of around twenty people, including some cannabis industry folks, sat elbow to elbow at a banquet table in the center of the room.
Following her Naval service, Stoner Nataly founded Can O’ Comedy this year with the vision of uniting people over food, laughter, and cannabis while maintaining a focus on social education and granting a platform for marginalized voices. For this gathering, the Indigenous theme extended to the ingredients used in preparing the meal as well as the cultural presentation that accompanied it.
As the buffet-style dinner was served, Chef Pāēmonēkot, also known as Walks First, took a moment to address the heartbreaking reality faced by Native women in particular, who are ten times likelier or more to experience violence, abduction, and murder than the national average. These women do not receive the same investigative effort or extensive media coverage that members of other communities do, and their families get little to no help from police when they need it. “We are victims of systematic failures,” said the Chef. “The government fails us on every aspect, but then again, they always have.”
Pāēmonēkot, who belongs to the Menominee Tribe, courageously shared harrowing stories of her experiences both with a murdered family member and with being chased by aggressive human traffickers. After the talk, Potowatomie medicine woman and a small drum circle of Iron Bear singers performed a traditional honor song dedicated to the long list of missing Indigenous women. Dozens of metal cones embroidered to the medicine woman’s dress jingled as she danced, filling the room with the healing vibrations of the music. A portion of the dinner proceeds will be donated to a 501(c)(3) Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and a local foster care organization for children placed in the Illinois Dept. of Child & Family Services.
The meal itself consisted of herb-roasted turkey with gravy, bison brisket in blueberry barbecue sauce, Brussels sprouts with sweet potatoes, cranberries and pecans, a wild rice and chestnut stuffing, and a harvest salad with pickled apples, beets and maple vinaigrette. A non-infused charcuterie spread and a make-your-own infused microwave mug cake station featuring Stoner Nataly’s own recipes bookended the sumptuous dinner.
The bison brisket stood out as the star dish, the succulent and tender game saturated with a sweet and tangy sauce that I would gladly drink from the serving tray if I didn’t have better home training. Bottles of olive oil infused with 93 Boyz The Lotto decked the table for guests to use as liberally as they please to enhance their plates, while the individually-dosed butter for dessert contained a Spectra Limonene 2:1 flower infusion to round out the evening’s medication with some comforting CBD.
Many of us enjoy the privilege of choice when it comes to heavy or unpleasant subject matter, ignoring tough topics most of the time and engaging only in short bursts, and only at the surface level. For indigenous women, however, the pain of dealing with traumatic issues and the inadequate institutional support available to them is a constant and inevitable struggle. Thankfully, the boundary-dissolving powers of cannabis and breaking bread make these issues a little easier to approach with a diverse group of friends and former strangers. Although this Can O’ Comedy event did not include a stand-up set, it is expected to be a part of future installments beginning in March 2023.
For more information about future events, contact Stoner Nataly by phone at 312-900-7198 or find Can O’ Comedy on Facebook, Instagram @stoner_nat_, and Twitter @StonerNataly. To learn more about becoming involved with the cause, Chef Walks First encourages searching #MMIW on social media, sharing any information possible, and volunteering with community efforts such as search parties.
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