Meiko Temple is a Dallas-based writer, chef, photographer, and recipe developer behind the blog “Meiko and the Dish.” She also is a founder “Eat the Culture,” an organization that supports Black culinary creators and entrepreneurs in elevating their craft and uplifting and amplifying their culinary heritage. In her “Why I Grill” essay, Meiko shares what grilling means to her personally – and its connection to the Juneteenth holiday.
My favorite thing to eat is tender cuts of meat. The only thing better is tender cuts of meat with a crispy bark and deep smoky flavor, and that’s why I love grilling. I love to cook in general and there are many ways to achieve tender meat — braising is a great example — but only on the grill can you create the contrast between tender and textured. Grilling is the one way to get both flavor and texture, the bark, that crust, that char we all love.
My time around the grill also makes me appreciate my childhood and my heritage. My family is originally from Kansas City, and though we moved away, my stepdad always brought that rich barbecue culture whenever he hosted a cookout. I loved watching him wow his guests. It’s not news now, but back then he must have been one of the first to put beer in his homemade sauces and marinades. It was turning people on their heads. He was a charcoal person for a long time and then he got his smoker, and it was over. He was always tackling and learning something new. It gave me a rich appreciation for techniques and for always learning and discovering new ways to grow as a griller. So, when I barbecue I feel like I’m connecting back to my roots.
The act of grilling also makes me feel connected to my ancestors since Black people have played a defining role in the development of the BBQ traditions we know and celebrate today. The Juneteenth holiday brings this connection to the forefront.
As a little backdrop, Juneteenth is a celebration of independence. When the Emancipation Proclamation was announced in 1863, there were still many regions of the U.S. practicing slavery. Juneteenth marks the time more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation the last slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas.
For the last 150 years, the Black community has been celebrating June 19 with street fairs, parades, concerts and more. But the celebrations really center around communal cookouts. It’s a big part of the celebration. Barbecuing also ties into red, black and green, the colors of the celebration. The red signifies the resilience and bloodshed. Barbecuing is one of the ways to reflect those colors. A Juneteenth celebration may feature red meat, red soda, red fruits and veggies.
This Juneteenth, I hope you are able to have a backyard party and celebration. That’s one way to stay true to the holiday. Or, mark the day attending a neighborhood event, or cook some traditional foods. I’m a founder of “Eat the Culture,” an organization that supports Black culinary creators and entrepreneurs in elevating their craft and uplifting and amplifying their culinary heritage across the African diaspora. I encourage you this Juneteenth to try one of the many recipes we feature on our site, eattheculture.com/. Or, try one of my favorite grilling recipes, Easy BBQ Beef Plate Ribs.
Today, with Juneteenth a federal holiday, a lot of people are just now learning what the holiday is and what it represents. It forces us to talk about slavery so we can continue to heal. Juneteenth draws us closer together to have conversations with family and friends, and it prompts us to learn more, just like grilling out.
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