Next Friday is Juneteenth, which is a celebration African-American freedom and achievement; it is the day marking the end of slavery.
On Friday, June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read the General Order No. 3 to a crowd in Galveston, Texas: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” News of the Emancipation Proclamation made by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 had been suppressed by slave owners in Texas, a Confederate territory, and this was the first time enslaved people had heard of it: two and a half years later. Jubilation ensued. The first Juneteenth freedom celebration was held the following year. We’ve got a lot of celebrating to do, so get cooking!
That inaugural Juneteenth celebration was in Texas, where they believe in doing things bigger and better. Texas barbecue and all its fixings are fitting for Juneteenth. This year is going to be difficult, given the double specter of the Covid-19 crisis and the nation-wide protests against violence to Black people. It is a good time to celebrate the legacy of resilience and collective freedom, remembering the joy and the sorrow.
Juneteenth is traditionally celebrated as an outdoor, shared-dish gathering. This year we have to adapt and improvise – applying our cooking philosophies to real life situations. We are familiar with wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart, which we can do with a couple of friends or family members spread out in the back yard or along a driveway. Carefully choreographed neighborhood gatherings could be possible, following social distancing guidelines. Otherwise, you can still make all this delicious food, and Instagram it for your envious followers.
Red, which symbolizes perseverance, is traditional for Juneteenth: strawberry soda, red velvet cake, strawberries, red beans and rice, and watermelon.“Watermelon and red soda water are the oldest traditional foods on Juneteenth,” said Dr. Ronald Myers, head of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. “And there’s always been soul food served. Fried chicken and barbecue and greens and black-eyed peas. I’m getting hungry! At any traditional Juneteenth dinner that’s what you’ll find.”
Other menu items can include collards, sweet potatoes, potato salad, and tea cakes.
We are going to barbecue some ribs, and have Jessica B. Harris’s Summer Succotash, followed by some red velvet cake.
Jessica B. Harris’s Summer Succotash
1 pound okra, tops and tails trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
6 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (about 3 1/2 pounds)
2 cups freshly cut corn kernels (from about 2 medium ears)
1 habanero chile, pricked with a fork (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Combine okra and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Add tomatoes, corn and habanero, if using, and place over medium heat. Do not stir. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the flavors are well blended. Stir to combine.
If you used the chile, remove it from the pan when the dish has reached the desired spiciness. Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.
Things you might not know about Juneteenth: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/501680/12-things-you-might-not-know-about-juneteenth
From Africa’s heart, we rose
Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose
Survive we must, we did,
We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose
To become the knowledge we never knew, We rose
Dream, we did
Act we must