'Native American Dinner' at Cress Restaurant is equal parts celebration and commemoration

One of the darker and more painful periods in American history — and I'm not talking about the past six months — was the forced deportation of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole tribes from their ancestral lands between 1831 and 1850.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 effectively sanctioned these "death marches" — and that act, unjust and racist to its core, has unfortunate relevance today.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, Trail of Tears Commemoration Day will be observed at Cress Restaurant in DeLand with a special Native American Dinner held to honor the legacy of those who suffered, and to celebrate the history and heritage of indigenous peoples.

In addition to being a place to enjoy some of the finest fare in Central Florida, Cress Restaurant, run by four-time James Beard Award-nominated chef Hari Pulapaka and wife Jenneffer, has always been a bastion of social, cultural and community awareness and this dinner, like the "7 Courses, 7 Countries" family-style dinner held earlier this year, will foster "table talks" — contemplative dialogue the Pulapakas hope will lead to a better understanding of the plight of Native Americans.

The dinner follows the Women Inspiring Change & Community Development (WICCD) Symposium, an event organized by Jenneffer Pulapaka, taking place earlier in the day at Stetson University.

"The dinner, like the symposium, can ignite an advocate and be a catalyst for a stronger community," says Jenneffer. "It gives us a chance to learn from mistakes while accepting each other as we are as we walk together in peace."

As far as the menu is concerned, the multicourse affair will comprise dishes inspired by centuries-old tradition, specifically:

-Three-Sisters Stew
-Smoked Seminole Pride Beef Loin
-"Indigenous" Grass-Fed Beef Ribs Taco
-Sweet Potato and Juniper Cake
-Larry's Seminole Squash and Pasture Prime Pork Hash
-Pemmican with Wojapi Sauce
-Cornmeal-Crusted Country Pate
-Fry Bread

To bring greater awareness to the event, Yours Truly has agreed to help out in the kitchen so, you know, fair warning.

Native American Dinner
Saturday, September 16, 6 p.m.
Cress Restaurant
103 W. Indiana Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720


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