Why Barbecue Became Significant To Juneteenth Celebrations

Juneteenth is one of the most significant holidays in the spring. And what better way to observe the occasion than with food? Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19, dates all the way back to 1865. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in the U.S., Texas finally received news that the Union had won the Civil War, which led to over 250,000 freed slaves and the beginning of this important day for Black Americans. While Juneteenth is only commemorated for one day in some areas of the country, others recognize it for a week or even the whole month.

With all that time to celebrate, you'll want to have an array of tasty dishes on hand. One of the most significant Juneteenth meals is already a popular summer staple in the U.S. (and especially Texas): barbecue. Typically cooked outdoors, barbecued foods are often associated with a sense of community, which is one reason they were included in some of the earliest Juneteenth get-togethers. Plus, the gathering around a fire (or grill) may be a nod to West African cuisine, which often makes use of open pit cooking. And as Chef Dominique Leach told the Institute of Culinary Education, "There's something spiritual about firing up the grill with family and celebrating what we have overcome as Black Americans."

Symbolic foods for a significant occasion

So, which barbecued foods, exactly, are go-to's at a Juneteenth get-together? First off are dishes that are symbolic in Black cuisine, such as pork and black-eyed peas, which represents prosperity. Others are simply centered on the idea of gathering around a fire pit (or grill) and the building anticipation of the meal throughout the day. You'll see classic meats like beef, pork, chicken, and ribs, along with sides like mac and cheese, cornbread, and collard greens. The important part is that everyone comes to gather around the grill, and delicious food ensues. In fact, some Juneteenth barbecues have been known to go all day and night.

Another aspect of the barbecued foods for this occasion is the sauce they're covered in, which is considered red. On Juneteenth, red foods hold significance because the color is related to the Yoruba and Kongo cultures that came to the U.S. as part of the slave trade, and it may also symbolize the blood of those enslaved. Between the classic sauce, hot sauce, and red beans and rice, you'll find a few red foods that fall under the barbecue category as well. Whether you celebrate Juneteenth in Texas or another part of the country, make sure to honor the occasion with some tasty barbecued meat and sides.