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Sponsor Spotlight: Waqsecewan Indigenous Catering

Lizette Bailey, of Waqsecewan Indigenous Catering, will cook you anything you want, and you will absolutely love it. Her specialty is Pre-contact Indigenous food, the foods that Native Americans prepared before everyone came over to North America. She states, “I serve vegans, vegetarians and anyone with any type of allergy.  I make any kind of food.  Italian, Asian, Pub Grub…you name it.”

Wāqsecewan (pronounced: Watah-Chee-Win) means: “Flows Bright” or “Bright Flowing Water.” A more specific description is, “How the light is so sparkly on top of flowing water.” She is Turtle Clan of the Menominee.

Wāqsecewan (Lizette) wants to reopen her catering business.  She wants to do it safely, by serving smaller parties in a socially distanced manner. She says, “I love it when I cater an event and when I share a story about the food that was prepared. When people are eating, there is a smile. It is so important.”

Wāqsecewan can be reached either by phone or email:  715-851-9501 • Give her a call. Miigwech!

—Jill Smith

Read her story (and a recipe) in her own words below.

Left to right: Ashton James (Wāpohsosaeh, Lizette Bailey (Wāqsecewan), Miranda Bailey (Mōswaewnukiw)

Left to right: Ashton James (Wāpohsosaeh, Lizette Bailey (Wāqsecewan), Miranda Bailey (Mōswaewnukiw)

“When I was an administrative assistant for the Menominee Language and Culture Program for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, I cooked for the Elder Language speakers on Wednesday for Keckiwak (“Elders Gather”) to speak and revitalize our sacred Menominee Language. I cooked old, old foods like milkweed soup, corn soups, fiddlehead ferns, venison and bison. Also squash dishes and lots of salsas. The Language and Culture Program allowed me to have a garden for the Elders and for the Menominee Language Immersion program. I also attended traditional ceremonies and cooked traditional foods for large groups.

“I saw a flier for a Pre-Contact Cooking Contest at the College of the Menominee Nation in May of 2018 and entered the contest. I won third Place. I was very excited. I had never publicly cooked for people and was worried they may not like the food. I gathered my courage and entered the contest. I also shared with the attendees what my feelings and thoughts were on what exactly pre-contact food is and how our DNA has a spiritual connection to our original ancestral foods.  After that, I began to get contacted by various groups to come cater for conferences, etc. I cooked out of my home, and I decided to say yes to cooking for groups. That is when I opened up my catering business. I couldn't believe that I was getting hired to do what I love to do, which is to cook. I would usually serve parties of 30 to 50 people.

Fiddlehead Ferns, by Wāqsecewan (Lizette Bailey)

(This is the first time that Lizette’s recipe for Fiddlehead Ferns has been written down. All of her recipes are in her head.)

Fiddlehead ferns are abundant here on the Menominee Reservation along the Wolf River. In the springtime, there is a short window to harvest them. You must gather and eat Fiddleheads before they unfoil. This is the time of year to harvest them.

Take 3 cups of Fiddleheads. Wash them. Saute them in olive oil with onions and garlic until they are still al dente. Dice up zucchini and yellow squash and add them to the pan cook until the squash are soft. Add cubed, already-baked butternut squash and acorn squash to the pan. Add crumbled bacon or cubed smoked turkey for added flavor to finish. Season to your liking. I have used various herbs such as basil, thyme, garlic. (I have learned to not cook with salt, but salt as you wish.)

When I cook for ceremonial meals, I do not sample the foods out of respect, and I trust in the Creator that all the foods will be very tasty and filled with love.

“Unfortunately, I closed the business because of the pandemic. My last catering job was in March of 2020. My husband, Basil, is an over-the-road long-hauler. I closed my doors and went on the road with him for a year during this pandemic to transport essential goods all over the United States from East Coast to west, north to south.

“I want to bring my business back. I want to do it safely. This pandemic has touched the entire world. I know that traditional foods are our Medicine. I would love to do a garden. I have to grow our food and serve it to others because it is our Medicine.” 

“My Mom, Colleen Bailey, would say, ‘This food is not only feeding our bodies, but it is feeding our spirits, too.’  I was always in the kitchen with her. I am the youngest of seventeen children. When I got older, I was still always with her in the kitchen. She taught me to measure with my hand. She taught me how to cook sacred food and talk to and thank the food for nourishing our bodies while we cooked. My mother taught me that the best thing about a gathering is feeding your guests the very best of what you have. Sometimes it may not be much, but everyone will be welcomed by a hug, water and food.

“Mom said that when you start to cook, your first thought must be with love. You want to put all of those positive thoughts and energy in the food and when people eat your food, they are going to feel good.  When I serve people I always thank them for considering me to prepare their meal.”

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