Ideas for your Juneteenth menu

Monday marks the third year of Juneteenth being an official federal holiday in the United States. It was first celebrated in Texas in June of 1866, one year after Major General Gordon Granger signed the order proclaiming that slaves in Texas were now free – two full years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In the beginning it was called Jubilee Day, but by the 1890s, the holiday was referred to as Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19th. President Joe Biden declared the day an official United States holiday in 2021.

Red velvet cake [ermine icing] from Bake From Scratch Magazine

As with many other holidays, certain foods have become associated with the celebration, one common theme being red foods. According to food writer Michael Twitty, the historical importance of red food goes back to the days of slavery in the southern U.S. Because most common foods of the time were rather drab, there was “an excitement that came with the rarity of eating red colored treats.” The fact that Texas was one of the last states to have slaves, and that many of those enslaved there came from African countries that were associated with red (primarily Yoruba and Kongo), also plays into the significance of the color. The symbolization continues with red foods representing the blood that was shed by Black Americans during slavery.

As Megan Braden-Perry writes, in the early days of Juneteenth celebrations you would likely have found “traditional Black Southern summer dishes—the ones synonymous with “the cookout” today—barbecue, coleslaw, peach cobbler.” Her menu for the holiday includes pork belly burnt ends, grilled watermelon salad, grits and greens soufflé, sorrel (hibiscus) tea, and red velvet cake among other delicious-sounding dishes. You can use her menu as inspiration for your own Juneteenth celebration.

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  • gamulholland  on  June 15, 2023

    And a whole book with a focus on Juneteenth came out last year— Watermelon and Red Birds— checking that out for inspiration. 🙂

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