Celebrating Juneteenth through food, drink, and tradition

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Friday, June 17, 2022
Celebrating Juneteenth through food, drink, and tradition
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Juneteenth foods celebrate freedom and tradition, but the color of the dishes also has a special meaning.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Juneteenth foods celebrate freedom and tradition, but the color of the dishes also has a special meaning.

"From the motherland in Africa, we have some jollof rice," said Joseph Adewumi, owner of Amarachi restaurant. "Amarachi is a word in the Igbo language, it means God's grace."

A sweet and savory assortment of foods designed to take your taste buds across the African diaspora from Nigeria to here at home.

"Red velvet cake is extremely popular for Juneteenth," Adewumi said. "Then you know you got the ribs."

Adewumi will be showcasing his food at this year's Juneteenth New York celebration at Linden Park in Brooklyn on Saturday.

"We're very, excited just to celebrate the end of one part of the struggle in our history, which was slavery," Adewumi said.

The dishes all have special meanings.

"Red is prominent in the celebration so we never forget what our ancestors had to go through," he said. "They shed a lot of blood to get us to this point."

And it's through food that generations have healed.

That's the goal of Nicole Taylor's new cookbook.

"'Watermelon and Redbirds' is the first cookbook solely dedicated to the new nationally recognized Juneteenth holiday," Taylor said. "I created the book because I wanted to tell the story of how I've been celebrating Juneteenth. I also was like, am I the right person to tell this story? But in the summer of 2020, witnessing the murder of George Floyd, I knew that not only I was the right person, but Black Americans, all Americans needed a guide, a cookbook to soothe the soul."

The cookbook features more than 75 recipes, starting with red drinks.

"It's often said that at celebrations, you would see this red drink on the tables of enslaved people," Taylor said. "There are a lot of theories on the why, but it's something that connects us so that is an essential Juneteenth food."

Taylor also served as an advisor for the Museum of Food and Drinks' new exhibit in partnership with the Africa Center.

It's called "African American: Making the Nations Table."

It is the first major exhibition celebrating African American contributions to the nation's culinary identity, lifting the lid on traditions old and new as the country celebrates Juneteenth this year.

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