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The Kitchen Diva!
ANGELA SHELF MEDEARIS
THE KITCHEN DIVA!
I’m not a Texan by birth, but I’ve lived in Austin, my husband’s birthplace, for more than 40 years. As a popular tourism ad states, “Texas—it’s like a whole other country.” I had to learn the local slang, decipher the Texas twang, navigate the proper use of “ya’ll” in a sentence, and learn how to celebrate Juneteenth.
Juneteenth began in Texas as a joyous celebration of hope and a new beginning of freedom from slavery for thousands of African-Americans. The June 19th celebration is one of the largest and most popular Emancipation holidays. The name “Juneteenth” may seem like an unusual way to describe the date, but this was a celebration of former slaves, most of whom had been denied the right to learn to read or write. Information and events could only be shared orally, that is by one person telling it to another. The month and date were combined and shortened from June 19th to “Juneteenth.” Juneteenth was used to remember the day in oral history.
The occasion for this event began with the arrival in Galveston Texas of Major General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers with the news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were now free. Lincoln sent Major General Granger and his troops to Texas because slave owners in the state refused to obey the Emancipation Proclamation. General Granger delivered Order # 3 on June 19, 1865 stating:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
It was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s official Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 that this news finally came to African Americans in Texas When African-American Texans heard the news that they were free many immediately hugged each other, began to dance and shout for joy, or fell to their knees in thanksgiving.
It is hard to explain why it took so long for the freedom message to get to Texas. An old slave folktale says that President Lincoln sent the news from Washington by a Union soldier who rode all the way to Texas on a stubborn mule. A more likely cause was the stubbornness on the part of slave owners who knew about the Emancipation Proclamation but were unwilling to follow it because they did not want to loose the free labor provided by their captives.
Juneteenth has been celebrated in Texas in a variety of ways. Some began the first anniversary of their freedom in 1866 with a special church service. African-Americans in Austin, Houston and Mexia, raised money to purchase park land to hold their Juneteenth celebrations. In 1872, Rev. Jack Yates, a local minister and community leader, helped to raise $1,000 to buy 10 acres of land which the African-American citizens of Houston named “Emancipation Park.”
African Americans looked forward to Juneteenth, which was actively celebrated for many years until the late 1960s, after which the event decreased in popularity. A Juneteenth revival began in 1975, and the celebration became an official state holiday in 1979.
Juneteenth celebrations began to spread beyond Texas as African-American Texans moved to other states. The Juneteenth celebration spread to their newly adopted homes. Celebrating Juneteenth has become a tradition in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Washington as well as in other parts of the United States. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Juneteenth is celebrated with a street festival, a parade, African-American plays, dances, art displays, carnival rides for children, a health fair, and a barbeque dinner. There was even a recent Juneteenth Celebration in Utah and as far away as Paris France.
Although the Juneteenth holiday has changed since it was first celebrated in the 1800’s, many things have remained the same. The celebration is an important day for families and friends to gather together to remember the past, acknowledge the accomplishments of the present, plan for the future, and to eat lots of good food!
This year, we’re celebrating Juneteenth at our neighborhood community center. I’ve totally fallen in love with this Texas-style Emancipation Celebration. I particularly enjoy gathering with family, friends, and neighbors to watch the parades and sample all of the delicious dishes. I’ll be preparing a special menu that retains the traditions of the past, with an eye towards the flavors of the present. Best of all, you don’t have to be a Texan to enjoy these fabulous recipes!
JUNETEENTH BARBEQUE – DIVA SYLE
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
½ cup molasses
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-5 Scotch Bonnet chili, Serrano, or Thai Bird Chiles, seeded and minced, to taste*
3 bay leaves
1-inch piece cinnamon, crushed
2 tablespoon ground sage
1 tablespoon ground thyme
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
5 pounds chicken pieces
Combine the oil and vinegar in a medium glass bowl. Stir in the orange and lime juice, molasses, soy sauce, cilantro, green onions, garlic, chilies, bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sage, thyme, allspice, pepper, and nutmeg.
Place the chicken pieces in a sealable plastic bag and pour the spice mixture over them, coating each piece well. Place the sealable bag in a baking pan and place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate 12 hours or overnight, turning once or twice to coat pieces.
Allow the chicken pieces to come to room temperature before grilling. Discard the marinade. Heat the grill until the coals are somewhat white with ash; the flame should be low. Place the chicken on the grill and cover with the lid. Grill for 30 to 35 minutes, turning pieces to cook evenly. Baste pieces with remaining marinade. Serve immediately
*Removing the seeds from the peppers reduces the heat, but wear gloves when handling the peppers as the oil will get on your hands and can be transferred to your eyes.
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens are an excellent source of many nutrients. Greens are extremely high in vitamin A, Iron, and contain some calcium. Greens are also packed with antioxidants. Greens are a wonderful addition to any diet. Try them, you’ll love them!
7 cups tightly packed trimmed spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens or a mixture of all
1 cup of purple cabbage
4 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Heat the grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In a medium bowl, combine the greens, water, oil, vinegar, garlic, bell pepper, onion, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper. Place two 24-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil on top of each other and mound the seasoned greens in the center. Bring up two sides of the foil to meet in the center, pressing the edges together and then folding the foil over twice to make two half-inch folds. Allow room for the packet to fill with steam and expand. Fold the edges of each end together twice to make two half-inch folds. Press the edges together to seal.
Place the packet on the grill and grill for 10 to 12 minutes. Using oven mitts to protect your hands, remove the packet from the grill and open it carefully away from your face, allowing the hot steam to escape. The greens should be wilted and cooked through.
CALYPSO CORN AND BLACK BEAN SALAD
YIELD: 6 SERVINGS
1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1/2 small fresh jalapeno chili, stemmed, seeded, and minced
½ cup firmly packed chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the corn, beans, bell pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and chill 1 hour or overnight to combine flavors.