'High on the Hog' Producers (and Foodies) Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback Tease Their Juneteenth Menu

The women behind the award-winning Netflix series explain why the holiday means so much to them and what fans should expect from season 2 of the hit show

High on the Hog Producers (and Foodies) Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback Reveal What’s on Their Juneteenth Menu
Photo: Adam Amengual

Ask High on the Hog executive producers Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback how they plan to celebrate Juneteenth this year and they're very clear.

It will involve food and a specific color. "We love something red," says Jagger, who reveals she's working on a brisket recipe.

Her longtime friend (and fellow foodie) is planning to celebrate with a refreshing Juneteenth cocktail that she has featured on their Hey Sistah blog. "That's usually involved hibiscus flowers and rum, kind of hitting on all the things that make up my family," Toback says. "My paternal side is from Barbados."

Fans of the Netflix series High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, will know the significance of red food and drink to this holiday. It's explained in the final episode of season 1, which explores Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when African Americans in Galveston, Texas finally learned they were free — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was declared.

High on the Hog Producers (and Foodies) Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback Reveal What’s on Their Juneteenth Menu
Author Jessica B. Harris and High on the Hog host Stephen Satterfield in the Netflix series. netflix

Over a meal that features a red velvet cake, Eugene Thomas (a descendant of those freed on that day) explains, "It was a reminder, in a lot of ways… of the blood that was shed prior to the emancipation, by all those that came before us, that did not get the chance to taste the freedom that we're tasting right now."

Given that 2022 only marks the second year that Juneteenth is being recognized as a federal holiday, it's unsurprising that the women who brought High on the Hog to TV, didn't celebrate it as children.

"I'd heard rumblings," Toback says. Jagger, who admits she "didn't grow up" with the holiday, adds: "When we started doing the deeper dive into the history of Texas, we were seeing the most beautiful pictures of women from the '30s [who were riding in] carriages covered in flowers. And the church bakes and the parades. It's amazing when you're stumbling upon something and then suddenly four years later, now it's a federal holiday."

High on the Hog Producers (and Foodies) Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback Reveal What’s on Their Juneteenth Menu
Friends and filmmakers Fabienne Toback and Karis Jagger with High on the Hog author Jessica B. Harris. Fabienne Toback

Jagger and Toback were moved to bring that story and other little known historical gems to the forefront after reading Jessica B. Harris's book, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, more than a decade ago.

Toback, a trained chef who cried after reading it in one sitting says: "I had a background in food. I'm Black. I just felt like all these stories connected me to information that was a part of me that I didn't know about."

The result was a series that is part travel log and part colorful culinary history lesson, which demonstrates that Africa and Black culture are an integral part of U.S. cuisine. The Peabody Award-winning show, for example, draws a line between gumbo and the okra that enslaved people enjoyed in Africa while also revealing that Thomas Jefferson's Black cook, James Hemings, brought mac and cheese back to America after their time in France.

High on the Hog premiered last year mere weeks before President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. That celebration was little talked about in mainstream culture before 2021, but — despite not being exposed to it as children — it's one that the friends now treasure as adults.

The daughter of Mick Jagger and American actress Marsha Hunt, Karis says her maternal family has roots in Memphis where their ancestors were enslaved. She appreciates "anything that we have that celebrates the past [so] we can remember the people who came before."

The mom of two highlights the importance of commemorating the holiday across generations.

"To be able to tap into that time and place when emancipation happened… We can look back and [see] these people were actually slaves not that many generations before. It is time to remember, and I think it's important for our kids to have those moments to look back and reflect and celebrate," she says.

For Toback, who is also a mom of two, Juneteenth took on a greater meaning when she retraced the journey of enslaved Africans from that continent to America, during the filming of High on the Hog.

"When I was in Africa, I picked up some shells off the beach and it's like bringing those ancestors and acknowledging them on this day," she says. "I'm so grateful because of them and that journey. I'm also in awe of their resilience and what they had to go through to get to this place."

After they pause to celebrate Juneteenth, the Los Angeles-based friends will resume working on season 2 of High on the Hog. "We're so excited because it has more visuals," Jagger says, referring to the more modern era that will be covered.

She also shares what fans should expect to see.

"It's the Great Migration. It's the Harlem Renaissance. It's Civil Rights, the Black Panthers, bean pies, people you've never heard of. There [are] so many more amazing stories," she adds.

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