Nicole A. Taylor’s gorgeous Watermelon and Red Birds is the first cookbook solely dedicated to celebrating Juneteenth. She shares a list of some of the places that inspired her during its creation or that simply provided “a refuge when I needed it."Less
“The first time I went to Houston, I was lucky enough to go to Emancipation Park on the day they were having Sunday jazz in the park, so I got to see this beautifully renovated public park and community center. But what’s even more special, I was literally standing on hallowed ground. This is a place where a lot of newly freed Black people in Texas would gather to see and find their loved ones who they had been separated from during American enslavement. It’s sacred ground.”
“I got a Zipcar and I drove to Galveston, which is really an island. I had two or three things on my agenda, one being going to see the Absolute Equality mural. It is a new mural that’s right in front of the historical marker that explains Juneteenth. This is also the site where General Granger read Order No. 3, which told Black Texans that they were free. The mural is beautiful, it’s bright, the colors are amazing, and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful things that I saw in Galveston."
“I’m born and raised in Athens, Georgia, and I moved back here temporarily at the height of the pandemic, and I actually had the privilege to be able to ground myself here in my hometown and write this very important cookbook. Hot Corner is a part of downtown Athens that historically was the Black business district—it’s always been a destination for me. And at the center of this district is the Morton Theatre, one of the only Black vaudeville theaters that are still open and operating.”
“When the world started opening up in the summer of 2021, I took a road trip to North Carolina. One of the stops was at Leah & Louise, helmed by Chef Greg Collier and his wife, Subrina Collier. I’d written about them before, and their grand reopening in 2020 was on Juneteenth, and I finally got to sit down and have a meal there. I had a lot of great food, but, oh my God, the freaking roasted cabbage dish! Greg Collier is one of the most exciting Black chefs in the country right now.”
“I was attending my friend Anthony Santagati’s wedding to Dawnie Walton, author of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, in the beautiful city of Beaufort. We were at this historic church with this beautiful stained-glass window, and outside of it, you see this statue of Robert Smalls, who’s actually buried there. Robert Smalls is a story more people should know about—I stumbled upon him and now I’m obsessed. He’s an American hero who believed wholeheartedly in freedom, in jubilee, in equality."
“I need to text my girl Erika Council, who’s the owner of Bomb Biscuits. I can make some biscuits—I actually have a cheddar-and-squash biscuit recipe in my new cookbook—but I could take a few more lessons from Erika Council. She has this amazing lemon pepper biscuit on her menu that I love. She is in a really cool part of Atlanta, right on the BeltLine, the popular green space. I love Erika. She’s awesome and she knows biscuits.”
“I split my time between Athens and New York, and I didn’t have a car until literally moving down here part-time, and almost every other day, I would be riding through UGA’s campus, and I see all these beautiful, tropical, lush botanicals kind of poking out of this corner on a very busy college strip. Early one morning, I needed some inspiration, and I took my notebook, I trekked up there, and I just sat and meditated for a good 30 minutes. And I started outlining my book.”
“I actually heard about Drugstore from a fashion podcast, so I drove to Atlanta and made a day of it. My mind was blown. There were racks and racks of vintage T-shirts—a whole bunch of Freaknik T-shirts, which is like a roving Black college spring break that I kind of missed, and a lot of HBCU T-shirts. It was nostalgia for me. It took me to a Juneteenth festival or Sweet Autumn festival, where there’d be T-shirt vendors selling, like, the Black Bart Simpson T-shirt I talk about in the book.”
"Savannah, to me, feels like New Orleans or like Charleston, because it’s a port city. I love going there, and every time I visit, I go to the SCAD Museum of Art. One of the first times I went there, Carolina Herrera had a show. I thought that was so cool. And the late André Leon Talley was on the board. I just think that they’re a leader in bringing contemporary art to the American South. So it’s always a must when I’m in Savannah.”
“I love Charlottesville. I feel like the city got pushed into the American zeitgeist because of white supremacy, but the town actually reminds me of my hometown—it’s a small college town. What I think is so beautiful about Charlottesville is that, in the midst of all of the anger and all of the disappointment, there’s so much positivity in terms of Black life and Black culture. The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center is that.”