This weekend it was the newly minted Federal holiday: Juneteenth. And while this holiday is new to a lot of Americans, especially those outside of Texas, it was a known holiday for the women of the NCNW. The cookbook has a section dedicated to the holiday, suggesting multiple items that could be cooked in celebration of Juneteenth.
We could choose between: barbecued veal roast; green beans in a hot mustard sauce, Texas tongue, homemade chile sauce, watermelon sherbet, or crab meat delight. We decided on just cooking one from the list and settled on the green beans out of both curiosity, and, honestly, ease! But that didn’t quite work out, but we’ll get to that.
The Juneteenth section of the cookbook opens with what is now referred to as the “Black National Anthem,” but they refer to it as the “National Hymn for the Colored People of America”: Lift Every Voice and Sing. Written by brothers James W. Johnson and J. Rosamund Johnson in 1900, the writer of the entry describes the song as “a hymn of aspiration for peoples of every race, color, or national origin.” Because this piece is an 122 year old masterpiece and deemed significant enough by the NCNW to include in the cookbook, we have decided to include it here because many still do not know it/ know of it!
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won!
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.
Out from the gloomy past
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
Our native land
Listen to a performance of the song: HERE
Printing this song to lead into the Juneteenth recipes is fitting as the holiday is essentially known as “Jubilee Day,” or Freedom Day.
In 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation declared all enslaved people in Confederate states free. While this did not free all enslaved people in the country, it joined with earlier wartime legislation which voided the longstanding Fugitive Slave Law, allowing fugitive slaves who made it to Union lines to be retained as “contraband,” rather than returned to their masters/mistresses. Between these two wartime measures, thousands of African Americans were now free people.
Historians have discussed the viability of this freedom, and have debated the efficacy of the Emancipation Proclamation for bringing freedom to the enslaved throughout the South, since it did not have any effect for the enslaved in the border states and in Union territory. However, for enslaved people, the Emancipation Proclamation was a maker of the beginning of their freedom, and many fled plantations in pursuit of this promise of freedom as a result of it. Countless hailed Abraham Lincoln as their “Moses,” delivering them from the land of slavery with the document.
However, in the deep south, and on many remote plantations that were somewhat disconnected from the battlefields and progress of the war, enslavers withheld this information from enslaved people, seeking to keep their property and retain their much needed labor for the war effort. Thus, particularly in Galveston, Texas, many enslaved people did not know of the Proclamation and the freedom they were owed.
It was on June 19th 1865, which Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure that the 13th Amendment freeing the enslaved, had been put into action. Their arrival to the city came as a two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and so the date had been claimed as the true end of slavery in the United States. It quickly became a local African American holiday, and, as the longest-running African American holiday, spread across the nation throughout the 20th century.
The first celebration came on the first anniversary and there is evidence of celebrations in several places in Texas, and quickly took root statewide. People and local organizations hosted barbecues, concerts, prayer services, parades, rodeos, baseball games, and other festivities in celebration of Jubilee Day. Formerly enslaved people and their families would journey to Galveston dressed in their finest clothes to celebrate their freedom.
There are photographs of these early celebrations that wonderfully display the celebrations of the meaningful holiday:
Today, a national holiday, Juneteenth is celebrated in a myriad of ways throughout the country. Purchasing from Black owned businesses, donating to Black organizations and activistm, as well as celebrating with family and friends has become more and more widespread.
The Dish: Green Beans, Hot Mustard Sauce
Green beans with mustard sauce, otherwise known as “the worst vegetable I’ve had, possibly ever” per Kayleigh’s partner. There were so many strange elements in this recipe that it is difficult to determine at exactly what point it went wrong. We’ll go ahead and give out a spoiler: we ended up with no mustard sauce. What we did end up with is perhaps the most bizarre group of flavors to accompany canned green beans. So, let’s get into it.
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk, scalded
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups hot coke cooked green beans
You might be asking, “what are coke cooked green beans?” We had the same question. After searching the internet for a bit, it seemed that this was in fact a real recipe that was exactly what it sounded like. Basically you mix canned green beans, shallots, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, yellow mustard, and Coca Cola together and let it marinate over night. We are not linking the recipe that we used because, honestly, it is not really worth replicating. It is entirely possible that there is a version of this recipe that is tasty, but it is not the one that we chose.
The second question you might have is, “why would you want to eat warm coke-flavored beans?” This is also a good question and one for which we do not have an answer. We could not bring ourselves to heat these beans up. This was not a problem though, because we also managed to botch the sauce.
The recipe in the book is actually for the hot mustard sauce. The first thing you’re supposed to do is combine the mustard, flour, and salt in the double boiler. We did not get a picture of this, but we did that with no problems. The next step is to add egg yolks. Well… how many? Since it’s not in the ingredient list, your guess is as good as ours! We went with two, figuring the smallest number would be a good place to start (we were assuming that since it was “yolks” we needed at least two). This did not got well. Basically they never really incorporated. So when we added the warm milk, the final step before serving, it just had some separated egg in it.
It went down the drain.
We did try the green beans without the sauce, but they left much to be desired (we direct you to the earlier description of “worst vegetable ever”). We can’t imagine that the mustard sauce would have saved the dish, but you never know. If anyone has any recipes for coke green beans, or has at least eaten them before, let us know. Bonus points if they were tasty!
These are definitely towards the bottom in terms of dishes we have enjoyed. We were thrilled to celebrate Juneteenth together, but next time we’ll stick with our more familiar barbecue faves!
Stephenson, Mrs. Charles (Grace Murray). [Emancipation Day Celebration band, June 19, 1900], photograph, June 19, 1900; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth124054/: accessed August 6, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.