In recent years, Juneteenth has become another date to celebrate all facets of Blackness—and that, of course, includes the food. Because it’s June, everyone loves an excuse to set up their grill or pit or whatever method of fire bearing, meat-smoking device they so choose and light the F up.
But do all of these people know the history behind these dishes? Why they cook what they cook and how it has been celebrated and coveted for centuries? So many Black chefs have taken on the additional role of historian in search of these answers, whether it is chronicling the history behind one of their own dishing or amassing over 150 different cookbooks dating back to 1827.
Leah Chase and Edna Louis are key players in commemorating the importance of southern cuisine, and not many people know of them. Quietly, people whisper about the racism that exists within the restaurant industry, but it isn’t spoken about as loudly or as much as it should be. Burgers in Blackface is one of many books that look at the commodification of Black people and the gross use of Black face to sell food to (not so) ignorant and (very) racist consumers.
Oftentimes, people ask, “well, what even is American cuisine,” and fail, time and time again, to include the history and cuisine of Black Americans in their answers. In celebrating Juneteenth by going out, barbecuing and honoring those who were once enslaved, it is crucial that we learn from their experiences and remember the work they put in to put Black cuisine on the map.