Since its first observance in 1865 Juneteenth was a holiday only celebrated regionally in the Galveston and eastern TX area. In more recent years, as the story behind the holiday has spread, African Americans throughout the United States have begun to celebrate the last of those final steps to freedom by hosting gatherings of family and friends. With each region putting its own spin on traditional eats and bringing their own favorites dishes to the party. Here are a few Gullah Geechee staples that are great for feeding a crowd at any Juneteenth cookout wherever you find yourself celebrating Juneteenth this year.
Red Rice is a must have dish at any Gullah-Geechee function and Juneteenth is no exception. A milder derivative of West African Jollof Rice, and precursor to Jambalaya, Red Rice is dish of rice cooked in tomato puree, bacon, sausage and sometimes shrimp, and can easily be made in large amounts to feed everyone invited.
Seafood Pasta Salad
Summer is all about Seafood so, for this occasion, I say we skip the potato salad, and upgrade to a delicious Seafood Pasta Salad with fresh shrimp and crab. Made with the same basic dressing as potato salad, and with pasta instead of potatoes. Diced celery and sweet onion replace the typical relish. If you’re feeling fancy add some fresh dill, squeeze of lemon and you will impress everyone! (Even that one Auntie, who’s the designated Potato Salad Maker in the family.)
I wholeheartedly believe that there is no better way to spend a summer evening than to be gathered around table with your loved ones enjoying plenty Shrimp, Sausage, Corn, Potatoes and Blue Crabs. The tedious task of picking crabs, gives you a chance to sit down relax, tell jokes or stories. At a Gullah Geechee gathering, the crab table at the cookout is where old memories are shared, and new memories get made.
In Gullah Geechee communities a fish fry is a celebratory gathering, so adding fried fish to your Juneteenth festivities is a perfect fit. And as a bonus, it goes great with the Red Rice. Perch, Mullet, and Whiting some popular choices, but my personal favorite is Catfish. You can pick whichever you like but fresh is best and breading matters. I like a mix of two parts fine corn meal, one part flour and plenty of seasonings.
Watermelon is also commonplace at Juneteenth fetes, and if you are looking for a fresh twist on this cookout classic treat, try a watermelon salad. Just mix fresh cut watermelon, with blueberries or blackberries, feta cheese, arugula, pine nuts and sliced radishes. This salad as tons of flavor with salty sweetness and just bit of crunch. Is a fun light option to have on a hot summer day.
Whether you make all these items or just a few, is up to you. it’s only important to make it with love and remember: Juneteenth is about coming together to reflect on all that African Americans have endured, overcome, and accomplished in this great nation.