June has arrived, bringing Father's Day frolics (can anyone say "grill"?), Flag Day, the Jewish Shavuot (to commemorate Moses receiving the Ten Commandments), the last days of the school year and the first days of summer.
Not as familiar is a black American tradition, originating in Texas, called Juneteenth.
According to cookbook author Angela Shelf Medearis, on June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read a special order to the public from President Abraham Lincoln.
It had taken two years for the news to reach Texas, and amid much speculation over what caused the delay, the announcement declared that all slaves were free. Instantly, June 19, or Juneteenth for short, became a day of freedom celebration and family reunions in that state.
Medearis says that Juneteenth was celebrated until the early 1960s, waned during the civil-rights movement, then emerged late in the '70s, popular once again. The tradition then extended beyond the Texas borders.
Whether Juneteenth participation is still going strong in select communities or has become a treasured memory of a bygone era, we can all relate to the reunion part.
No matter the common ground that unites us in the first place - family, school, church, workplace, military duty, neighborhood - reuniting is second nature to West Virginians. How many all-day-meetings-and-dinner-on-the-ground can you count? Texas wasn't able to lay claim to the patent on ties that bind.
Most prevalent when an old-fashioned reunion is anticipated is the aspect of the cavalcade of food, laid end-to-end on tables that hopefully stretch for miles.
The tote-to-a-potluck rice dish has a tiny kick to it with assistance from the chili peppers in that Southern staple - a can of original RoTel tomatoes. The RoTel also comes in "mild" for the tender-tongued and a "very hot" for the daring.
To satisfy any sweet teeth in the crowd, chocolate cupcakes have to be on the menu. Today's are made simple by starting with a cake mix, and then given a flavor boost and decadence with the addition of mini chocolate chips and a double dose of cream cheese - once in the filling and again in the chocolate frosting. After enjoying one or two, you might prefer to sit out the sack races.
E-mail Judy Grigoraci at ...@suddenlink.net.
Spicy Mexican Rice
Makes 6 servings
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed