Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations
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For a limited time we have copies signed by Nicole A. Taylor.
Watermelon & Red Birds is the first cookbook we know dedicated to Juneteenth celebrations. James Beard Award-nominated food writer Nicole A. Taylor draws from a decade of annual observance and breaks from traditional boundaries of southern and soul food to build a creative holiday table for the 21st century.
Now a federally recognized holiday, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black Texans on June 19th, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It has been celebrated unofficially since 1866 in Texas; gradually, Black people in other parts of the country began embracing and commemorating that date as the origin point of their American freedom.
Taylor immerses readers in the jubilant atmosphere of all-day festivals with fairground recipes like funnel cake with apple topping and tornado sweet potatoes—spiralized, skewered, and deep-fried till crunchy.
She conveys the sacredness of cookouts and BBQ alongside crowd-pleasing dishes like meatless baked beans and caraway butter trout: “It’s the closest thing we get in modern life to the tribe gathering around the ceremonial fire. It’s all the generations together, trying to negotiate some middle ground between the old folks’ traditions and the young people’s insistence on being themselves.”
“Red Drinks'' are a hallmark of any Juneteenth celebration: “At least one ruby beverage must be consumed.” These joyful batch drinks are reinterpreted—from early kola nut and hibiscus versions, and modern day punch and Kool-Aid—into potables like Miso Bloody Mary, Sweet Potato Spritz, and the cover image’s Afro Egg Cream.
While serving on the advisory committee for the Museum of Food and Drink’s exhibit African/American: Making the Nation’s Table, Taylor learned that many kitchen tools were patented and tweaked by African American makers from the late 1800s and into the 1900s. She spotlights task-specific “Juneteenth gadgets'' like corn zippers, biscuit cutters, and ice cream scoops to remind us all of the importance of this heritage.
Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.