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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for ConsumerAffairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the anthologies: FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Leah Chase, Cutting Loose the Body / July 2019

"Everybody has got to die,
 but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case." ~ William Saroyan

πŸ’”LEJ's Louisiana

Yours Truly in a Swamp

A monthly e-column by Leonard Earl Johnson, 
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
 E-mail: Subscribe@LEJ.org
 Archives: www.LEJ.org  
July 2019

To all those who fed us and led us in Life's Dance, 
may your Spirits live on and take us once more 
round the floor. ~ LEJ.org
Β© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
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   πŸ”» πŸ”»

The Passing

of Leah Chase


Cutting Loose the Body

by Leonard Earl Johnson


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 We have been busy with Funerals.  Oddly enjoyable gatherings of old friends and new tears.  

Saint Peter Claver Catholic Church, NOLa

"That is about all you can ask of a funeral," L. A. Norma said to an elegant lady in black frock and white pearls.  

She was from Rhodes Funeral Home and escorted us to the line into Saint Peter Claver Catholic Church, Faubourg TremΓ©, for the Funeral Mass of Leah Chase, world-renowned Creole Chef of 
New Orleans.  

Inside the Church, hugs from Family, politicians, Carnival Krewe dignitaries, musicians and artists spanning the forty plus years we knew this great woman who blessed the gumbo and passed the ladle to us all.

Passing through the crowd, Jackie Clarkson, New Orleans long time District-C Council Woman, retired, gave us air-kisses and remembrances. 

Leah's handsome children gave deep embrace.  I told them how I loved their Mother who had taught me how to make a roux, when first I splashed down in 

Big Swamp City.  

"Not hard to do, but till you know how you don't know," 

Norma said.  

Leah Chase famously admonished President Barack Obama,
"You don't put hot sauce in my gumbo."

More dignitaries have dined at Dooky Chase's than can be listed here.  A few include President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, Hank Aaron, Ernest Gaines, James Baldwin, Bill Cosby, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, and a host of others.  

Leah Chase, President George W. Bush, 
Dooky Chase (preceded Leah in death, 2016)

As noted by the James Beard Foundation, β€œChase’s original dishes would help pioneer the Creole food movement and her recipes for dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and fried chicken have gone on to become kitchen staples.” 

Leah Chase even served as the inspiration for Princess Tiana in Disney Studio’s 

Princess and the Frog.

Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John, The Night Tripper, whose own Funeral was the following week in New Orleans, sang β€œDown in New Orleans” on the soundtrack. 

Leah Chase / Princes Tiana
As a writer of two cookbooks; And Still I Cook, and The Dooky Chase Cookbook, and winner of countless food and humanitarian awards, Chase was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America in 2010.

Leah Chase has received many other awards, including multiple awards from the NAACP, the Weiss Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the New Orleans Times-Picayune 1997 Loving Cup Award, and the Outstanding Women Award from the National Conference of Negro Women. 

Southern Foodways Alliance presented her with a lifetime achievement award in 2000. 

  She received honorary degrees from Dillard University, Tulane University, Loyola University, Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Madonna College, and Johnson and Wales University. 

Ms. Chase is also recipient of the Francis Anthony Drexel Medal, the highest award presented to an individual by Xavier University.

In 2009, Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans named a permanent gallery in Chase’s honor.

And Ray Charles sang of Dooky Chase's famed restaurant in his song, Early in the Morning.

In celebration of Chef Chase’s longstanding contributions, the New Orleans Museum of Art presented an exhibition of twenty paintings that capture Chase at work in the kitchen of her restaurant. The series, painted by New Orleans raised Gustave Blache III, captures her lifelong dedication to the Culinary Arts. One of the images was included in the collection of iconic 

Cutting Squash (Leah Chase) by Gustave Blache III / 2010, Oil on panel / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the artist in honor of Mr. Richard C. Colton, Jr.

 American images in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C.

Following the Funeral Mass, a prized honor dirge was provided by the members 

Seven Mystic Sisters
 of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, ending with the joyous 'Cutting Loose of the Body' (to fly away Home) and Second Line jubilation with the Seven Mystic Sisters 

Today, Dooky Chase's continues under the Family operation.
click image for clear readable resolution
Leah befriended me when I was a young Yank from the Land of Lincoln, newly splashed down in The Swamp.  She taught me how to make a roux.  Listened patiently when I ~ naive white boy ~ explained the civil rights movement of my college daze at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. (She knew Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, and Martin Luther King, to name a few.  I knew John and Wendell O'Neal, Ray Lenzi, and Jane Adams.)  My most cheeky act of all, I once baked her an apple pie. She told me it was good. But talk about taking Shrimp to Delcambre!
Like I said, she was patient.

She shared the awful days after Katrina, often taking my friends and me around to look at the devastation inside Dooky's. She and Dooky lived in side-by-side FEMA trailers across the street. Once, when I mentioned we were having lunch at nearby Willie Mae's Scotch House, she said, "My red beans are better." They were, but her stove wasn't working that day. 

Shrimp Clemenceau

We had a favorite Leah Chase dish, Shrimp Clemenceau named for Georges Eugene Benjamin Clemenceau (1841-1929), French statesman who played a key role in negotiating the Treaty of Versailles.  His Grandson, Pierre Clemenceau (1904 -1995) lived as a noted bon vivant in New Orleans, married to local socialite, Jane Grunewald.

As we passed along the aisles of Saint Peter Claver Church we met the great Baton Rouge / New Orleans artist, Clifton Webb, who invited us to view a new work dedicated to Leah Chase: On The Shoulders of Ancestors. 
On the Shoulders of  Ancestors, Clifton Webb
On display in The Church of the lovely new boutique Hotel Peter and Paul, a deconsecrated Catholic church, in adjacent Faubourg Marigny.

Leah died the first day of Hurricane Season, 2019.
As fate would have it we had a last meal together at Dooky's during last October's New Orleans Film Festival ~ talking about friends and years. I loved her, and am so glad we were / are friends. 
LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and periodically 
at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans,
publication of the
It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Archives: www.LEJ.org
Β© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
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Coming August's column

More Yours Truly in a Swamp 
Post date August First 2019
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Editor's note: 
column titled
More Tales of the Festivals
 was published, 1 June 2019, the day Mrs. Chase died, and was also dedicated to her memory
⧫Dedicated to Leah Chase⧫
6 January 1923  ~  1 June 2019

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Don't hold your breath on my figuring out le Internet.  I am a 
storyteller, not a computer-pinball gamer, but contact me 

if you want on the list ~ that may get e-mailed a monthly heads up. 

If you wish to read any month's column go to www.LEJ.org 

They are posted on the first of each month and polished for the next few years.
Β© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
Your Comments and Corrections are welcome
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