What It Means to Love New Orleans

 Leah Chase recently wrote a letter to the Editor of The Times Picayune. That’s Leah Chase the  chef not Leah Chase the singer, who is the daughter of Leah Chase the chef. Everyone in New Orleans knows both Leah’s but if you happen to live somewhere other than the Big Easy .. well first of all , that’s a shame but come on down and visit. And second of all you can find a bio of this wonderful woman rat heah and that rhymes with Leah and it’s 5:00AM in Tulsa Oklahoma where I’m looking out my hotel window watching it snow so give me a friggin break. And bring me coffee.

But I digress. It’s carnival time in New Orleans and most of the world thinks of Mardi Gras when they think of New Orleans. And that’s fine. We like all those tourists coming down here to spend their money on enormous amounts of alcohol, cheap trinkets and court fees.

But if you want a sense of what the real New Orleans is like, read the letter below. Don’t beleive all those headlines about drunks on Bourbon St and record murder rates.  Leah captures the spirit of what makes this such a city of joy and fellowship.  If she had decided to be a writer instead of a chef she’d have a Pulitzer or two on the shelf.

But none of us would have gotten to meet her or taste her food.  Like Jimmy Buffett said, “it’s good for the body and good for the soul.”

So when you come down be sure to stop by Dooky Chases and try her gumbo.  Or the best fried chicken in town.  Or the best sweet potatoe pie I’ve tasted since Satch Sanders closed his joint in Boston. Or really anything.

CHEF LEAH CHASE on life, art and NOLA: A letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Published: Feb 12, 2012 8:13 AM

I thank you for including me and our family restaurant, Dooky Chase, within the pages that celebrate the 175-year history of The Times-Picayune and Gustave Blache III’s artistic rendering of me on the paper’s Feb. 8 front page. You and I have in common many things.

I have always prepared my mind to read the world as it is, but visualize it as it could be, a magnificently beautiful place. A world that appreciates art appreciates the unlimited potential of humankind. I push every day in the culinary arts as you, too, do in professional journalism to achieve the highest professional and artistic potential. However, as in the world also in metropolitan New Orleans, a competition exists between negative cultural influences and positive family influences on our children and on our work effort that concerns us both.

Sometimes, frustration sets in, the frustration that comes with the feeling that we are not moving fast enough to change things for the better. Sitll, working hard, doing for others and daily prayers, just being positive about life and being alive to tell about it and see it unfold before our eyes, always wins out and keeps us going.

I love New Orleans. I love its openness and the diversity of its people who seemed to have in common with me a joy of just being alive. I love the intermingling of different races and ethnicities of people, the different languages (seldom the King’s English) Creoles, Cajuns and others speak, and the fact that rich and poor do not separate themselves, that much, one from another. From my daily readings of The Times-Picayune, you seem throughout your history to like those things, too. However, both you and I are well aware of negative cultural influences that life in New Orleans does have on children. You work hard to portray that objectively and inspire us all to change and improve as I say, “by investing in the artistic excellence of people and in the education of neighborhood kids.”

Like you, I am determined to shelter children from all that is negative, yet to prepare them to deal with the real world and to develop in them a strong commitment to community, family and quality. The measure of our successes is not whether any of us (your editors, staff writers, workers and me) achieve fame or wealth in life, but whether we truly understand what it means to love and be part of one united family, one community striving to get better.

Over the years that each of us has been alive, your paper for over 175 years reporting history and me for nearly 90 just watching and reading about it, we each have come to realize that our rich cultural heritage is not focused at all on the price of things but on their artistic value.

I truly appreciate your professional reporting of Our Times, as we strive to grow and develop the New Orleans metropolitan area into that magnificently beautiful place we can one day become.

Leah Chase

New Orleans

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