On this episode of The Soul Food Pod, join host Shaunda Necole and her guests as they share stories and traditions surrounding the national holiday Juneteenth and Juneteenth food.
Juneteenth’s history of food and tradition
With her mom Ma-Ma Mary and bestie, Teresa, Shaunda envokes conversations about the importance of soul food recipes, especially when commemorating Juneteenth, African American freedom day, and celebrating Black American heritage.
Shaunda provides a straightforward and easy-to-understand guide for celebrating and acknowledging Juneteenth, including gathering with friends and family to discuss the holiday’s significance.
Soul food for Juneteenth
Shaunda discusses her favorite soul food recipes and tips for celebrating Juneteenth with easy-to-make ideas for menu dishes that are perfect for the occasion.
Along with suggestions for Juneteenth red foods and drinks, Shaunda shares her recipe for a tasty watermelon salad perfect for the holiday celebration or any occasion!
You’ll learn about the history of Juneteenth and how to plan an ideal cookout celebration with classic Southern soul food dishes like red velvet cake, red beans and rice, red hibiscus sweet tea, and BBQ meats.
What you’ll learn in this episode?
- What is Juneteenth, how is it celebrated, and why does it matter?
- How is Juneteenth similar to Independence Day?
- What are the official colors for Juneteenth?
- Why is Juneteenth food red?
- How do you celebrate Juneteenth?
- Juneteenth tomato watermelon salad recipe
- Black cookout songs playlist
- What not to do at a Black cookout
- Game: “You know you’re at a Black cookout when…”
What is Juneteenth, how is it celebrated, and why does it matter?
Juneteenth commemorates June 19th, 1865. The day when the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, with good news.
The news was that the American Civil War had ended, and enslaved African Americans were free because President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth began as a day to celebrate the abolition of slavery in the past. Juneteenth traditions continue today to celebrate African Americans’ culture, heritage, contributions, and progress in the United States.
Why is it called Juneteenth Holiday?
The word is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth.” So June 19th, now a holiday, is when the news of emancipation finally made its way to Galveston, TX.
What is the importance of Juneteenth?
The Juneteenth holiday is a jubilee day to celebrate African American freedom, independence, and heritage.
Even though the United States became a free country 87 years earlier on July 4th, 1776. Enslaved Black people weren’t freed on the 4th of July.
So you can understand why many in the Black community have a tainted view of America’s 4th of July Independence Day.
Juneteenth is a day of remembrance, a celebration of Black people’s freedom day, and a time to reflect on African Americans’ vital role in America’s journey to freedom and equality.
Juneteenth traditions remind us of our ancestors’ trials and tribulations before gaining equality and pride.
Juneteenth is the time to remember African American history, celebrate cultural accomplishments, and look forward to what we can achieve as a community.
How is Juneteenth similar to Independence Day?
Juneteenth is an African American holiday celebrating the ending of slavery.
However, it’s not the same as the 4th of July Independence Day, even with its patriotic aspects and celebration of freedom.
Juneteenth independence day is a more spiritual display of patriotism that focuses on African-Americans rather than the nation.
What are the official colors for Juneteenth?
The Juneteenth flag features three colors: red, white, and blue. It symbolizes the same colors found in the U.S. flag.
It shows that formerly enslaved people, and always have been, Americans.
What does the zigzag shape around the star on the Juneteenth flag mean?
The bursting zigzag around the star represents a nova, a term that astronomers have adopted to refer to non-existent new stars that suddenly appear.
This image symbolizes the emergence of the African American people, who were once forcibly kept from owning the land they inhabited.
A representation of freedom, a new beginning, and a new horizon for African Americans in the United States.
Do you wish someone a happy Juneteenth?
At the heart of Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the journey and freedom of Black people in the U.S. and an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the many contributions that Black people have made to American culture.
So, while you can wish someone a Happy Juneteenth emancipation day. Even better, you can use the following tips for celebrating and acknowledging Juneteenth, including on social media.
How do you celebrate Juneteenth?
- How do you organize a Juneteenth celebration? Gather family and friends with a Juneteenth menu and spread of foods. While you’re together, discuss the importance of Juneteenth in Black History.
- Share the contributions of Black people to American culture (i.e., artists, creators, athletes, products, and businesses).
- If you’re not a Black American, it’s crucial not to use Juneteenth as an opportunity for self-promotion or appropriation of Black culture.
Can you eat watermelon on Juneteenth?
Watermelon is food stereotypically thrown on the doorsteps of Black people as a way to identify us.
But, of course, you know, African Americans didn’t invent watermelon!
Just like our stereotypical liking of fried chicken (which we also didn’t invent, BTW).
However, we do have a hand in creating delicious Southern watermelon recipes. (Similar to how we’ve perfected seasoning Southern fried chicken!)
So don’t forget to add tangy and sweet tomato watermelon salad to your Juneteenth traditions menu!
Juneteenth food FAQs
What traditional food is served on Juneteenth?
Here’s a short list of traditional Black folks’ food you can make for Juneteenth:
- Southern fried chicken
- Soul food BBQ chicken
- Soul food collard greens
- Black-eyed peas
- Southern potato salad
- Soul food deviled eggs
- Southern sweet tea
- Homemade cornbread
- Shrimp and grits
- Sweet potato pie
- Soul food apple pie
- Banana pudding
Why do you eat red foods on Juneteenth?
Juneteenth traditions include a menu of red foods to honor the bloodshed of African American ancestors during their journey toward freedom and equality.
So when you celebrate Juneteenth, include red foods for an official Juneteenth food tradition!
What is Juneteenth’s traditional beverage?
What drink is synonymous with Juneteenth?
The official drink of Juneteenth is red hibiscus sweet tea.
Hibiscus drink has West African roots, so it’s at the heart of the Juneteenth traditions and celebrations.
What does red velvet cake have to do with Juneteenth?
Red velvet cake is the official dessert of Juneteenth.
Its popularity was boosted during the Juneteenth red food celebrations due to its red color.
What does strawberry soda have to do with Juneteenth?
What is red soda water?
Soda water is carbonated water (seltzer).
Red soda water is carbonated water flavored with either watermelon or strawberry as part of a Juneteenth feast! A beverage commonly served as part of Juneteenth cookout traditions.
Why are Juneteenth colors also red, black, and green?
The official Juneteenth flag colors are red, white, and blue, representing enslaved Africans and their descendants as Americans.
Many in the Black community have adopted the Pan-African flag colors red, black, and green (RBG).
What do you wear on Juneteenth?
The red, black, and green colors worn at Juneteenth events symbolize the blood, soil, and prosperity of all African people and descendants.
Links & resources mentioned in the episode:
- Juneteenth menu, food, history, facts, & Black folks’ recipes
- Juneteenth red foods and drinks & watermelon red soda
- Southern soul food tomato watermelon salad
- What not to do at a Black cookout & What are the best Black cookout songs?
Where to listen to the podcast:
- Instant Pot pressure cooker (for the pickled red onions & sweet pickled peppers) optional
Ingredients for Southern soul food tomato watermelon salad
- 1 pound seedless watermelon chopped into approx. 1″ size bites (1 mini watermelon works well)
- 6 oz grape tomatoes halved – if in season, choose the gourmet medley of colors (red, yellow & purple variety pack)
- ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
- ¼ cup cilantro fresh & chopped
Ingredients for quick pickled onions and pickled peppers
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 5 sweet yellow peppers deveined, seeded, and sliced lengthwise
- ¼ cup red onion sliced into strips
Instructions for Instant Pot quick pickled red onions and sweet pickled peppers
- Pour the red wine vinegar into the Instant Pot stainless steel inner pot.
- Add the sliced yellow peppers and red onion to the pot.
- Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is in the sealing position – up) and pressure cook on high for 4 minutes.
- When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural release of pressure for at least 4 minutes.
- To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
- Use a colander to drain the vinegar from the pickled vegetables.
- Set aside the pickled red onions and peppers.
Instructions for for Southern soul food tomato watermelon salad
- Add the chopped watermelon, sliced grape tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and chopped cilantro in a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the pickled yellow peppers and red onions to the fruit mixture.
- Use a small rubber spatula to gently toss and mix the ingredients gently.
- Tomato watermelon salad can either be served at room temperature or chilled in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Serve this Juneteenth watermelon salad recipe right away and enjoy!
- Goat cheese if you don’t have feta cheese.
- Apple cider vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, or a balsamic vinaigrette instead of red wine vinegar.
- Olive oil instead of vinegar if you’re not pickling the onions and peppers.
- If you don’t have colorful tomatoes, add in a few colorful melon balls like honeydew or cantaloupe.
- A chopped shallot can be used in place of red onions.
- Pickled jalapeno peppers can be used to spice things up in place of sweet peppers.
- Top with fresh herbs like mint leaves, basil leaves, dill, thyme, or oregano instead of cilantro. Or a salad topper like watercress.