16 Juneteenth recipes for Black joy and liberation
This year—2021—will be my first celebrating Juneteenth. I learned of the annual holiday only recently, in part because the story of Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S., was not widely taught or emphasized when I was growing up.
Last year’s national reckoning with racial injustice underscored the importance of understanding Black history. Our struggles for equality are not new, and the need for progress remains urgent. Taking every opportunity to recognize our victories—the big and the small, the mundane and the extraordinary—is imperative.
Many who celebrate Juneteenth agree: No gathering on this day would be complete without food. Sharing food imparts deep connective power—it is a way to honor Black joy and Black freedom, not to mention Black contributions to culinary culture in the United States. As a chef, I use food to pay homage to the suffering, pain, and humanity of my ancestors, all those before me who struggled, organized, danced, laughed, and died in the ongoing fight for liberation.
Traditionally, red foods and drinks (think: hibiscus punch and red velvet cake) play an important symbolic role in Juneteenth celebrations, with the color representing bloodshed. But there’s always room for peaches, cornbread, collards, and fried green tomatoes. In creating a menu for this year’s Juneteenth observance, my inspiration was simple: celebration.
These are the types of dishes commonly served at Black backyard barbecues, Sunday dinners, and everything in between. They uplift us at tables of mourning as we remember loved ones who are no longer with us. A Juneteenth meal pays tribute to the full multitude of our experiences—and in so doing, helps carry us forward.
A Southern-style Juneteenth menu
More Juneteenth recipes for celebrating all month
Renae Wilson is a freelance recipe developer and chef based in Brooklyn, New York. A U.S. Navy veteran originally from South Carolina, Wilson used education benefits provided by the Montgomery GI Bill to fund her culinary and pastry education at the Institute of Culinary Education.
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