It’s Juneteenth! A Time to Rejoice and FeastJun 01, 2022 06:00AM ● By D. Natasha (Chef Beee) Brewley, PhD, MBA, HHC
Lucky Black-Eyed Peas (Photo: Chef Beee)
Juneteenth is a time of celebration for many African Americans, commemorating the official end of slavery in the United States. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, issuing the declaration that all enslaved persons were deemed free, but this great news was not shared in all areas of the South. It would take two and a half more years before Union General Gordon Granger would bring the news of freedom to the enslaved Africans of Galveston, Texas. The date was June 19, 1865. Officially named Juneteenth National Independence Day, the day was signed into law as a federal holiday on June 21, 2021. The ending of slavery created the possibility for a new and better life.
Juneteenth provides an opportunity for Black people to come together and celebrate their freedom, family and strength. Juneteenth also gives Black people a space to reflect on past struggles and spotlight current issues. The day is marked with food, music, fellowship and education. For many, the Juneteenth celebration has become a holiday just as important as July Fourth’s Independence Day.
In the culinary space, many of the foods that are eaten during Juneteenth have roots in the Black American diaspora. They are easily transportable and comforting to the soul. Foods such as fried chicken, sandwiches, pickles, greens, okra and macaroni and cheese are crowd favorites and often seen on the tables of Juneteenth family gatherings. The color red is an overall theme seen in many desserts and beverages. Red foods include red drinks, fruit such as watermelon and strawberries, and red velvet cake and pound cake. Red honors the memory of fallen ancestors and signifies the blood that was shed on the road to freedom. Representing resilience and strength, it has strong symbolic meaning in African and Caribbean cultures and traditions.
In keeping with the themes and traditions of Juneteenth, the following plant-based recipes are certain crowd-pleasers and are great for celebrating the holiday. While black-eyed peas are not traditionally seen at many Juneteenth celebrations, they are fitting to add to any menu. A legume indigenous to Africa and the Middle East, black-eyed peas represent abundance, prosperity, love and good luck. Many traditions offer them at feasts at the start of the new year to usher in good fortune and hope.
Consider making these delectable plant-based dishes for your Juneteenth gathering! ❧