19. Juneteenth 365 with Nicole A. Taylor (Watermelon & Red Birds)


Audio Episode

Show Notes

Juneteenth is a United States Federal holiday to commemorate the freedom of enslaved African-Americans . The celebration is rooted in Texas, taking place on June 19, the date the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced there in 1865.

Nicole A Taylor has written a book of recipes, Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations, designed to help you celebrate Juneteenth to the fullest, but also to use at your celebrations throughout the year.

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Please note that this transcript is computer generated on only very lightly edited. It may contain grammar, word or syntax errors.

Jess 0:14
Hi, it’s Jess and you’re listening to or watching another episode of The flaky foodie podcast, the only show where the discussion is delicious and as always, there’s chatter to chew on. On today’s episode I want to talk with Nicole Taylor. She’s the author of Watermelon & Redbirds, a Juneteenth cookbook. Now, you may be wondering, it’ s September, what can I possibly get out of a Juneteenth cookbook? And the answer is quite a bit. The holiday coming up, Labor Day, is the last hurrah of summer and this cookbook is all about embracing the wonderfulness that is summer produce. So you’re gonna want to learn more about this cookbook and possibly get it before your next Labor Day Shindig. So kick back and relax. After a brief announcement. We’re gonna jump right into my interview with Nicole.

Okay, let’s jump right into some announcements and housekeeping. I only have one announcement and call to action today before we jump into the meat of the interview with Nicole, and that is to please look up and join the Cultured Cookbook Club on Facebook. The Cultured Cookbook Club is the perfect place to get the dish on the latest cookbooks written by authors of color. So come on and join you get the opportunity to vote on and choose the cookbook that we discuss each month. And at the end of the month. There’s a virtual discussion. You don’t even have to get out of your PJs, where we discuss the book we talk about what we’ve made from the book. It’s just an all around good time, good vibes. So if that interests you, go to Facebook and search for the Cultured Cookbook Club. So make sure that you join. Okay after a brief message from our partners. We’re gonna jump right into our interview with Nicole A. Taylor, stay tuned.

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Today I have with me Nicole A. Taylor. She’s an accomplished food writer and author. She’s been nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in the culinary world, a James Beard award. and she’s the author of three cookbooks Up South, the OG cookbook, and the cookbook that we’re going to talk about today is the cookbook for Juneteenth, Watermelon and Redbirds. Now I’ve enjoyed thumbing through this, but kind of how did this cookbook come to be?

Nicole A. Taylor 3:46
Jess, thanks so much for having me on the podcast. Wow, this cookbook. It’s fun. Because there are two versions story right. Versus that, you know, over the last decade plus I’ve been celebrating Juneteenth and writing about Juneteenth or producing content around Juneteenth. And my agent basically gave me the nudge and said this would be a great cookbook. It was around 2018 when she said this, and I started in earnest working on that book. That’s one. Story number two is that so many anecdotes and things that I talked about in the essays and had notes in this cookbook are centered around Juneteenth, but they’re centered around how I entertained people. How I’ve hosted people and celebrated in the summertime, since you know, I was in my 20s, so you talking about 20 plus years. So this cookbook has been in me for a long time and it’s the way that I cook during the summer months. it’s the way that sometimes throughout the year, and how I celebrate important days like Juneteenth or special occasions in life and in my family and friends lives.

Jess 5:06
Awesome. So tell me a little bit more about your background as a person. I know from your book up south that was kind of inspired by your move to Brooklyn. You grew up kind of in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia. So deep southern roots. Can you tell me more about that? Like, how did you start cooking?

Nicole A. Taylor 5:24
Yeah, so I grew up in a college town Athens, Georgia. I think I heard you say before you are you in Tallahassee? Yes. Tallahassee is, much like Athens, the whole entire city revolves around the University of Georgia, I

Jess 5:41
can definitely understand that.

Nicole A. Taylor 5:42
Yeah, the students are a big part of life. Here. Athens is 60 miles north of Atlanta. I grew up in a working class, they my mother worked for chicken poultry, for more than 40 years. But I also was raised by my two aunts and uncles in what I call the homes in a neighborhood that is now called Chicopee-Dudley. It is a neighborhood where I saw black people and black lives in a very inspiring, positive, fun loving way. My next door neighbor became the first black city council woman in Athens, Miriam Moore, my neighbor across the street worked at the cleaners for like four years, you move up the street a bit, some of the most engaging and popular black school teachers lived in my neighborhood. So I grew up seeing black life in many, many ways. And black men and black women taking care of their families and taking care of their neighborhoods. I learned how to cook by watching people, right? I’m the person that I feel like if I sit down at you just make something and I watch you closely more than one or two times, I can almost recreate that I will pay attention to little things like how you move and how you do things, and learn to cook as a young person, a teenager, I can or was making food or getting in trouble for having the oven or the stove on when he’s home. And finally, everybody’s like, just let her do her thing. So yeah, that’s my background. I mean, I left Athens and went to college in Atlanta University. And I recently wrote about how Athens and Atlanta in form, the way I eat and the way I work for resi. resi is a reservation app that we use to make reservations most popular restaurants around the country. And they have beautiful editorial side. And I got write about how growing up in Athens and becoming a young adult in Atlanta really shaped how I view food, how I make food and how I eat out. So yeah, I lived in Atlanta for a bit and then moved to New York in 2008. And I realized like, Oh, I could be a full time, food person. And so in to the 2008 I moved, or my husband and I moved to New York City. But I definitely wasn’t calling myself a food writer. I knew I was obsessed with food. I kinda was thinking I could do a career food, but I wasn’t sure. But what I did start doing the same thing I did in Atlanta, I had this long list of restaurants and places that I wanted to try or markets I wanted to visit and I was working at a nonprofit when I first an environmental nonprofit, and I would get off work and I would you know even if I didn’t have money to eat at a spot I would at least just go out and look at the menu or walk in order drink order one app. So I immerse myself in New York City food culture on my own kind of self made start doing a podcast same thing. I I’ve taught myself a lot you know I came up as they say through the mud and in food media. But here I am, you know, I did it. I would say the non traditional way for a long time I was aching and trying to work at one of the glossy food magazines. And now doesn’t even matter. They don’t, they don’t even exist barely, you know, but um, I, I am blessed to be able to have at this point, start a career in earnest in like 2008. And now, you know, on the other side, I have three cookbooks I’ve written for, you know, pretty much every major food publication, you know, newspapers, such as New York Times, and I’ve been able to write about Black culture mainly, but I’ve written about other things as well like maple sugar. I’ve written about some of my favorite restaurants opening for food and wine, the fly in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. So

that’s, that’s kind of the girl from you know, small town, Georgia, how she, you know, rose up through the ranks of food media.

Jess 10:51
You mentioned that you watched your family members cook when you were growing up. And so was it was there a lot of entertaining like you have in the Juneteenth cookbook that you kind of modeled your recipes after or was this something that you kind of learned being out on was

Nicole A. Taylor 11:07
funny as you asked that question, because I immediately started thinking about my cousin Tammy Gartrell growing up, she’s one of my favorite cousins. She’s 10 years older than me. And her her mother and father, Tom and Bunny Gartrell, they I mentioned them in my first book, and I mentioned them in the Juneteenth cookbook, they worked at a sorority house for more than 50 years as cooks. And they were the house, in my family in our community where all of the hosting the parties, the family get together happened. I learned how to make people feel good how to make my house, their house, from watching them. You know, they were the ultimate hosts, they were the ultimate people who not only fix you have a whole meal, people would just show up and all of a sudden a whole meal would appear. But they also knew how to pull the brown liquor out. They understood how to be a place for the preacher and how to be a place for the cousin who’s always drunk who was sloppy drunk, how to entertain him and feed him as well. So I would say hands down. They were more like us in office to me. They’re actually my mom’s first cousins. They’ve since transition. But I would say that is where I learned how to provide a safe space, a place of love, a place of joy and a place of pure love. I learned from them.

Jess 12:42
Awesome. So about Juneteenth. You mentioned that you got the idea for this cookbook, and when your publisher kind of mentioned it to you, so did you celebrate Juneteenth a lot before then or did you just kind of start looking into Juneteenth once you got the the notion? Oh, no,

Nicole A. Taylor 12:59
no, no, I was celebrating Joon Chang. I was celebrating Juneteenth because I attended a Juneteenth festival outdoor festival in Brooklyn more than 10 years ago. And it was in the middle of the Fort Greene neighborhood and apart it was a black nonprofit organization doing their 13th annual Juneteenth Celebration. There was a stage there were young people performing, you know, a band, there were food vendors. And there was a black man dressed and cowboy is higher with the pony giving kids pony rides and the kids were so happy. I have one photo from that day and I have a big smile on my face. I’m like, wow, I want to celebrate Juneteenth, I want to make Juneteenth a part of my annual tradition. And that’s when I started doing it. And then I started writing about it. And that’s when my agent said, You should write a book on Juneteenth. And I actually deleted her email because I said, I’m not from Texas. I’m not the person in writing. And I thought the holiday was too niche. But she, you know, she saw something she saw that the importance of the holiday. And but no, I’ve been celebrating it. I’ve celebrated it on a rooftop with some of my dearest friends. And we had you know, real fancy food well fancy meaning like it was plated and we pass it around. I’ve helped Brownsville Community Center and culinary cafe, host the June team, event and tour with Chef BJ Dennis I’ve done over the last decade. I have a whole list of every single thing I’ve done on Juneteenth, but not never with the intent that I was gonna write a book about it. I didn’t even think that I had enough recipes or enough stories to talk about Juneteenth. But when I sat down I’m like, oh, nah, I probably got enough for like, three books.

Jess 15:07
But this is definitely like a methodology where you can cook for a meal from beginning to end for almost every black occasion. There’s a recipe here. How did you celebrate Juneteenth this year? How did I steal what was on the table?

Nicole A. Taylor 15:20
I’ll start what was on the table. So I celebrated Juneteenth in my hometown. And I did that on purpose. There were plenty of organizations who were emailing saying, Hey, come here, but I really wanted to ground myself in in home. And I wanted to ground myself in the place where I spent most of the time writing this cookbook. So for food, there are friends that came from out of town. So one of my friends, Kia, who owns milk glass pie, she bought a bunch of pies. So the day of June Ting. In the evening or afternoon, we had an outdoor pie social, which I thought was really cool. And it wasn’t even on purpose. It was kind of like she was like I’m wearing a bunch of pies. So she had like a buttermilk pie. Raspberry like a peach pie. It was scones cookies, and I was like, let’s bring it outside. So we had an outdoor pie social and the day before duties, the actual June 19. That Saturday on the eighth 18th. We grilled out my husband got on the grill, I micromanage him. On the grill. We had chicken burgers, which is one of my favorite recipes, the actual recipe that I did a cooking demo on the Today Show with Craig Melvin. So we had you know, normal cookout barbecue stuff on the 18th. Also that whole weekend starting on it Thursday, if I go backwards, I did a book signing at the only locally owned bookstore here in Athens. It was like 103 degrees. So we had Yeah, we had to change venues because originally it was going to be outside and we went to inside the new but one of my favorite kombucha companies here in Athens did a hibiscus float. So we had hibiscus come Bucha with this coconut sorbet on top and it totally was like you know to read punch went your grandmama your aunt put that sorbet on the time. So that was super fun. And then that next day that Friday, the plate sale which is a black own dinner, lunch experience run by Mike and Sheree the sheets they hosted a happy hour for me in honor of the book. So we had like homemade bologna sandwiches and happier we had drinks wine sponsored by black girl magic wine, their sparkling Brut. The whole weekend was like June 18 foods red punch, cookout grill food. It was it was so beautiful. I’m like was that just a month ago? Can I recreate that man?

Jess 18:09
Yes. Juneteenth part 2/4 of July. Jyoti’s Part Three Labor Day listen, you can just keep it going.

Nicole A. Taylor 18:18
I mean, listen, and that has, what you just described literally is what I did this past Fourth of July. It was daunting part two. And literally, I saw two old friends that I hadn’t seen in definitely 10 plus years and saw their kids. Last time I saw the kids they were in like car seats. And now Now they’re teenagers. So I had a very beautiful July 4 weekend, which was my dream team. Part Two, it was bittersweet. You know, it was Juneteenth was very similar to some of the things that I write about in the duty book where you know, black people we always have this juxtaposition with joy and sorrow right or, or craving great a liberty and all its bitter sweetness. And that’s what this past weekend was like, for me it was it was joyful because I got to relax and spend time with friends. But it wasn’t lost on me like all the things that have been happening over the last two weeks. And so, you know, for me, it was important to take this past weekend and not say I’m not celebrating Fourth of July and I can’t necessarily say that I was celebrating Fourth of July but I was celebrating the spirit of my ancestors and that is wanting a better life for me and that life that better life includes rest, restoration, a better word to say restoration, resilience and personal freedom and liberty. So that’s what I did this past weekend with plenty of food.

Jess 20:05
Do you feel like any extra pressure since you’re no the author of this Juneteeth cookbooks? You know, you’ve become kind of representational of the holiday. Since you have this body of work out. Do you feel any additional pressure to kind of to bring the heat on Juneteenth or any other kind of black holiday? Yeah, for that matter? Yes.

Nicole A. Taylor 20:28
Listen to reasons why. I feel pressure because, listen, I wrote the first cookbook dedicated to the Juneteenth holiday by a major publisher, right. I know that there are plenty of people probably have written community books around your teeth or have written about Juneteenth. Now, some of my colleagues like Donald battle Pierce, she’s written about Juneteenth, and Tony, tiptoe, Martin. But there’s pressure because I am writing about Juneteenth through a different lens from a very modern lens. And I want to make sure that my recipes are reflective of the past, but also look for look towards the future. So that’s a lot of pressure, because people, you know, people critique you. And it’s pressure for me, because people made my recipes, and they want to be like, did this taste the same? You know, and ultimately, when I’m making food for my family, and friends, I want them to love the food. So I think regardless if it was a cookbook or not, then I definitely always have pressure to make great food, because I want people to, to have a memorable experience when they’re at my home. But then adding a cookbook on top, you know, people they want to sometime most times now, definitely over the past month or so they’ve showed up and they’re like, Is this from the cookbook? Wow, it’s more than one thing from the cookbook. I’ve always done it because the stuff in the cookbook is what I make. I mean, I can do it. I can do it by rope. So yeah, there is pressure. There’s gonna be pressure probably for the next several years on June teens, for me to show up in a way where I’m giving to other people. And I’m okay with

Jess 22:21
it. So how does your research process for the for the book go? I know you’ve said you already kind of read wrote about duties before. But you know, not being necessarily from Texas, where the holiday originated? Right. How long did that take? Before the cookbook came? Well,

Nicole A. Taylor 22:37
I will say a few things is that, you know, June 19 1865, also known as Juneteenth is a holiday that’s rooted in Texas holiday that, you know, got it’s got his legs in Galveston, but we know that black people left the American South and more specifically black people left Texas. And when they left Texas, they took Juneteenth with them. So you find people from Texas who celebrated Juneteenth for generations, you find them in Atlanta, you find them in LA, you find them in Oakland, you find them in Seattle. And so I spoke with people who want specific the person I spoke with was Marguerite Hannah, born and raised in Galveston, lives in Atlanta, went to school in Howard, from a very prominent black family in Galveston, her grandfather was Mr. TD Armstrong, who owned a pharmacy their own real estate and was you know, a contributor to black life and culture. And Galveston, but I spoke with her, she’s the person who asked to speak on her. I’m like, okay, she gave me permission to write this book, right, and saying that it’s okay. And also to she gave me permission to do things the way I want it to be. And so I spoke to people, people who celebrated Juneteenth who were from Texas, I also did a lot of reading from cookbooks and many things that weren’t cookbooks, looking for cultural cues about Texas food about black Texans. About Juneteenth. I also looked at Black cookbooks, to see the correlation between foods, traditional foods people ate at Juneteenth and just general black what I call celebration foods. What do we eat and celebratory times, I listened to a lot of music as well looked at a lot of art. When I when I could, you know, because I started deep research in this book, in the pandemic, right in 2020 in the summer of 2010. To me, and I was working on this book all the way up until March when he went to the printer March of this year. I have a section in the back of the book called notes on Juneteenth. I call it the poor man’s bibliography. And it’s not even the extensive list of who I talked to what I read, for instance, I read and went through how to be by Harriet Cole. That book came out in the early 2000s. And she has like two paragraphs talking about Juneteenth celebrations. So I went to my shelf, I went to my shelf and just kind of looked at Black books that I thought would be some references around Juneteenth. But the research was not just one road, there were so many different paths that led to creating chapters one like the festival and fairs chapter, I was really interested in creating a chapter that focused on what I call Americana summertime foods, which are fair foods like Famo, Cades, and fried fish and shrimp where you find black coastal cities, particularly like Galveston. That’s where they had a duty, they will have fried fish fried shrimp, you see fish fries to happen all over the country. But when I started researching about the fairs and festivals, I went down this rabbit hole of reading about the desegregation of the Texas State Fair in Dallas. Whoa, I could like do a whole article about the Texas State Fair, I ended up you know, writing an essay that kind of gave you the gist of the desegregation of the fair. But yeah, that research, I was like researching that fair for like, a whole week. And I’m like, wait, I’m like, wait, wait, wait, wait. Come on back. Because I’m not I’m not a historian. You know, I’m a person who is a master home cook that writes about Black culture. And I like to say I’m leaving bread crumbs for people to do a deeper dive. But yeah, the research is very exhilarating. For me, when you

Jess 27:01
were coming up with recipes was one to where you were kind of putting it together for the book and you’re like, that’s Juneteenth in a nutshell kind of envelops how I like to celebrate it how I’ve celebrate it was one or maybe two or three recipes that you feel kind of encapsulate your question.

Nicole A. Taylor 27:19
I feel like the robe the all purpose wrote in the book is really Jim ting to me, and I will say because ribs and barbecue, barbecued food, or cookout foods, you can’t have Juneteenth without the smoke, right? People people want a burger people want ribs. People want meat, they want to be outside, they want to taste that smoke. And so this all purpose rub. I have perfected and tweaked it over the years. But I feel like it’s the thing that I’m always going to have in the summertime when I’m grilling food out, you know, my husband was actually putting the food out and I’m micromanaging him. I’m always gonna create my robes, and use them the whole summer. So that Rob which is in the front part of the chapter is crucial to me telling my story of duty, and desserts. Oh my gosh, I am a dessert person. So I have two new chapters dedicated to dessert. And I feel like ice cream is a story that so many people making homemade ice cream. People from the South have a certain age. I’ve gotten three different people tell me the story of in the summertime, they would have a big wooden ice cream maker with the rock ice and their grandparents or their family members will let all the kids you know, turn the turn and it will be on duty. So I’ve heard this story from three different people as I’ve been promoting his book. And it was just confirmation like having a whole chapter and having homemade ice cream in this book in my way in a very modern way also speaks to the traditions of so many black people across the United States and particularly black Texans who had and enjoyed homemade ice cream on June 18. The honey vanilla ice cream is a beautiful ODE TO DO 10 stories of ice cream making and the future of desserts on June 18.

Jess 29:33
So something that I noticed from the book was the beautiful use of summer produce which you know are from Florida. We have wonderful produce here in Florida, especially during the summertime so there’s things like fresh corn and zucchini and eggplant. So how important is fresh fresh produce kinda to the celebration or

Nicole A. Taylor 29:53
oh my gosh, like when I was growing up the summertime meant that the fruit man was going to come through the neighborhood He does not have watermelon. And the grown ups run outside because of vegetables slash fruit man will come and they wanted to get the summer bounty offer off of the vegetable man’s truck, right. And I remember going to the grocery store in the summertime. And soon as you walk in, you see these big cards with watermelons coming out, right? And you knew that when someone bought their watermelon, and you got home, you just weren’t gonna cut a watermelon for one person, you know, it became a communal thing. And also in the summertime, you know, you’re driving somewhere and there’s a roadside stand and you get corn and you get tomatoes, or in my neighborhood, everyone had a garden. And I remember getting yelled at from neighbors, because I would cut through their yards to go to my cousins and past trampling their their summertime fruits and vegetables. So it is a part of, of American culture, the American sales culture to have tomatoes, corn, eggplant, fresh herbs, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries in the summertime. And so I started this book, the ideation of this book thinking about what are the fruits and vegetables that I can recall that naturally come to my mind? When I think of summer months, and when I think of Juneteenth. And I literally started a spreadsheet, right. And from this spreadsheet, I wanted to like how can I tell the story of the summer bounty? How can I tell the story of someone’s great who always kept the garden? Or how can I tell the story of someone always stopping at a farm stand. So that’s what you see throughout the book than the recipes. You see fruits that conjure up a memory. You also see a food pyramid in the beginning of the book that literally gives you an example of you know, fruits, vegetables and kuchi minds that you should be shopping for for this cookbook, the fruits and vegetables, summertime fruits and vegetable repair my when I was creating these recipes. So

Jess 32:17
let’s talk a little bit more about that food pyramid. You did a wonderful interview with the National African American History Museum. And you talk a little bit about how there’s almost like a duality between your food pyramid and some of W. E. B. Dubois work you tell us a little bit more about

Nicole A. Taylor 32:35
such a coincidence. I’m the Creative Director of my book is George McCalman. George is a San Francisco based illustrator and artists. He has designed a few cookbooks, probably one of the most notable cookbooks he’s designed this year is black food by Brian Terry. But he also I was lucky enough to have him design my book. So the cover of my book, The Color, illustration illustrations in my book. It’s all George. And I had this idea that I wanted to do a food pyramid and George was like, Okay, tell me what you want to do. He was like better yet. Just draw it and send me a picture. I’m like, I can’t draw. I’m not an artist. But I just, you know, Sam, a little thing and my moleskin. And he use colored pencils, and the first printing of the book. And then we just put the words on there. Now, in the second printing of the book that’s supposed to happen. He has some hand drawn words are the fruits and the vegetables and the herbs. And then we print out this five by seven archival print of the pyramid and as George and so when we were printing this out, the book had long gone to the printer. The book was out. I was just looking through some of my husband’s arts books. And he has his book that chronicles Dr. WEB DuBois is research around black Atlantans black people in Georgia, at the turn of the century. And he has all these diagrams, their pyramids, their circles, and I opened it up. And literally, there’s a pyramid, colorful, that looks almost similar to what George and I put together and I send it to George and he’s like, Hi. My husband said was Jordan inspired by this. So I sent him a text. He’s like, No, but oh, he’s like, it’s so funny. He’s like, I’ve been saying for years, I’m gonna buy that book and I haven’t bought it. He’s like, I’m going to buy it now. I was like, yeah, that’s totally the ancestors speaking through me. But it is a coincidence that they look so much alike in terms of color, in terms of, you know, the simple idea that we were conveying. So, yeah, I’m happy seem to have been on that same wavelength with Dr. He’d be the voice

Jess 35:04
is amazing. So the title of the book also kind of has mentioned of the answer, so it’s kind of hidden within it watermelon and Redbirds, can you tell me a little bit more about the title of that book and the book and what it means. Yeah,

Nicole A. Taylor 35:18
I mean, watermelon. We talked a bit about it, like, you know, what a melon to me means. Summertime is signifies Americana. It also signifies you know, black people in a very positive way. And Redbirds. Wow, I get shields. Every time I get this question, I just get chills thinking about it. My mother used to tell me growing up, she would be like, look outside, look outside, look outside, and she’d be like, there’s a red bird. There’s somebody that died in our family coming back to say hello, blow them a kiss. And I always will see a red bird and be like, Oh, that’s somebody my family coming back and say hello, is good luck. I remember this story. I had to be a little girl. I remember that story. Right? When I started to think about what the title of this book should be. I never forgot the store. But it wasn’t on my mind. And I never really saw read borrows a lot in New York. And I was like, this needs to be the title of my book. It is the perfect summation of the past the present and the future of Juneteenth. And when I came back to Georgia to create this book, and to take a break from the COVID 19 pandemic, and I look out my window, and I have a stressful day, I will see a red bird. I see so many red birds now. And then just like layering and flying around, and I always just go Thank you. Thank you. Thank you ancestors. And even now I started to call out people’s names like is that true? Is that you investigate? And so yeah, the title is special to me.

Jess 37:03
Yes. So you just mentioned at Bessie, you mentioned in the interview also about how she kind of taught you to cook or you watched her cook and she kind of supervised your first recipe in the kitchen, which was fried corn. So do you remember that recipe and how it tasted? Do you still make well let

Nicole A. Taylor 37:24
me because I don’t think Okay Do not say she supervised that. So my Bessie Goolsbee, she lived to be almost 100 years old. I mean she’s my great aunt. She’s more like a grandmother to me. And it’s funny because she was probably was matriarch of our family. Everyone looked at her but she could cook the first thing that I saw her cook and I recreate it was actually a poached egg to make posted all the time she had a cheap really cook she could make great yeast rolls, and she drink a coca cola every day. But I learned how to I don’t I can’t recall if she taught me how to make fried corn or where I learned it from but yes, I was young I wasn’t even a teenager and I would cut the fat back off and I ended would have that big black cast iron pan and I would you know take the fat back I’ll put it on a piece of paper let it drain out that was gonna be on this on the side. And you know shuck the corn cut the corn off and fry the corn Some people call that cream corn now but yes, I still make that it was I have a recipe in my first cookbook. But I don’t I just funny. I think I learned how to make fried corn just seeing other women doing the same thing. I don’t think I don’t remember my best to be making fried corn that much

Jess 38:44
for your son. I know he’s a little one now. But do you have plans to kind of have him watch you in the kitchen?

Nicole A. Taylor 38:53
Now? Yeah, okay. Is three and a half years old. His name is Garvey. He I am so proud when we go to the grocery store and he comes in the kitchen and he sees the avocado he goes avocado or he’ll get up in the morning and he’s like, What do you want for breakfast? And he’s like mango and I don’t have any mangoes. And he’ll just start calling out fruits and vegetables because he sees all the fruits and vegetables on the counter. So it’s not foreign to him right. And so I’m proud of that. And he loves making eggs. He loves eggs and so I let him crack his own eggs. Sometimes they fall on the floor and then shales get in it but I lamb crackers on it and make him scrambled eggs it I think it starts now and he definitely will see a photo of someone in the kitchen and he’ll go mommy

Jess 39:51
does anybody in the kitchen as mommy

Nicole A. Taylor 39:53
says he’s seen me in the kitchen so much and I’m proud of that and I hope is My, my, my prayer that he will create memories of family and friends and food the same way I have and he’ll have you know, these three good books as a guide to enjoyment and to laughter.

Jess 40:17
So we talked briefly about Powell, the title watermelon and web birds, especially the web part, red birds part kind of has June teens past, present and future kind of wrapped up in it. What do you kind of envision the future of June to be right now we’re kind of in the state where more people are finding out about it across the nation who may not have celebrated it before. How do you kind of envision the future

Nicole A. Taylor 40:44
freaking excited about Juneteenth I, I feel that Juneteenth will always be ours. And when I say that, what I mean is that no one can take black American story of family can take them from us your story about your family. And growing up in Florida or growing up in Milwaukee or me growing up in Athens. No one can strip that away from me. And I’m mostly excited about people asking folks in their family, did you celebrate Juneteenth or tell me about Auntie Susie? Sweet potato salad? Why don’t know about you know how to make it. I want to learn how to make, I see that that’s what Juneteenth is going to look like is going to be people, black people digging deeper into their family stories. And with those family stories comes food and food traditions. And so I’m most excited about that. All the other stuff to me is just noise, right? Because I know that black people, there’s so many things in our culture that have stood the test of time. And I know in my hearts that Juneteenth is an American holiday, it is a black American holiday. And the future is right. I’m also excited about the plethora of June teen cookbooks that are going to come after mine. Like hello people like there should be an entire June 18 cocktail book or dessert book and it should be by someone’s from Texas who did celebrating it for Juneteenth for centuries, excuse me, or centers not the wrong word. It was the wrong word for decades. I’m excited about that. So things are bright for Juneteenth

Jess 42:36
for sure a lot of African Americans now are going into meatless diets vegan diets I have for one, I’m pescetarian. And I’m very grateful for the inclusion of the zucchini dogs, and also the meatless baked beans.

Nicole A. Taylor 42:50
This weekend, people love them.

Jess 42:52
So do you kind of picture more of like a plant based culinary experience for black

Nicole A. Taylor 42:57
people? I think that more people, more African Americans are incorporating plant based or vegetarian side dishes or main dishes into their celebrations, I think is becoming just a main thing for me. I always keep impossible burgers in my freezer. So if when I’m cooking out for a celebration or Juneteenth and find like forget that someone is vegan, I can pull out an Impossible Burger but even more so. My mushrooms I always always have what I call fancy mushrooms in some form for a celebration, you know, I will fry them up and use the same batter that I use for my fish sometimes I will use my dry rub and put them on the grill as you see in the cookout and barbecue section. Yeah, I’m always thinking about how to incorporate vegetarian and vegan dishes into my celebrations because I have so many friends who are you know, eating less meat and or have decided to mostly eat a plant based diet so it’s natural to me and I also was vegetarian for about 10 years were pescetarian and my husband was vegetarian so it’s easy for me just just to do it not even think about it every now and then I will slip up and like have like a wish our sauce and something and then I forget like oh wait the fish and but you can buy you know non. What I wouldn’t want to call it vegan Worcestershire sauce. I guess it’s this wizard. Yeah. So there are plenty of ways to switch it out. But to answer your question, yes. People are already people already doing it.

Jess 44:49
So beyond June teen how do you kind of envision your cookbook being used through like the other month throughout the year? Well,

Nicole A. Taylor 44:56
I mean, it’s the summertime we outside hashtag And yeah, I mean for me this summer, I’m mostly excited about going on vacation with friends. And I’m excited about, you know, going on a hike with friends. And I’m excited about being back in New York and doing a blog party. And so for those three things that I just mentioned, you can use watermelon and Redbirds, the margarita meets the maroon margarita mix is so perfect to mix up, put it in your cooler, have your eyes ready, ask someone to bring the booze if you’re drinking booze or ask someone to bring the tonic and you just put the cup, put a little mix in the cup, put your tonic in, or put your Dillion and if that’s what you want, shake it up, and boom, you have a cocktail, you can do that on a camping trip or outdoor picnic at a park. When I’m going on vacation in August, I’m already thinking about like, Okay, I’m gonna be on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s gonna be a ton of fish. I’m gonna do the Caraway butterfish at our rental house for everyone is easy. I can just buy the caraway seeds and the butter. And I’ll get the guys to cut that out. There are so many we outside things that are happening this summer that you can bring my recipes to, or you can just make them at home while you’re chilling. These next two and a half months, or three months of warm weather, depending on where you are longer. We should be enjoying ourselves. We should like turn the TV off. Close our phones. Forget about social media and like be with family and friends. Like it’s been a crazy two and a half years yours, right? We’ve just basically been scared to touch anyone to be around people. So I’m excited to safely be gathering with family and friends at Eton. Well,

Jess 47:01
yes, but we thank you so much for being a part of the show. Nicole, I have thoroughly enjoyed having you here this conversation. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the cookbook. But again, thank you so much for being so much.

Nicole A. Taylor 47:15
I’m a bit rusty. It’s been two weeks since I’ve been on the I’ve been on the interview circuit but I’m I’m happy to be on your podcast. Yes.

Jess 47:25
So people kind of want to follow you and what you have coming up next. Where can they follow you?

Nicole A. Taylor 47:31
I can be found everywhere on social media food culture is C ULTUR is T Yeah, I’m gonna be outside all summer long.

Jess 47:45
And if you want to buy the book, you can find it anywhere you find books, especially at your local independent or black own bookstores. So make sure you check out watermelon and red birds and again, thank you so much for being here I am just with the flaky foodie. Remember, eat something delicious this week and treat this episode like gossip or the gospel and tell somebody about it. All right, everybody. Thanks

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