Friday, April 06, 2007

4/07/2007 Community Gumbo

audio Democracy Now (4/04/07)
  • Subprime Lending Crisis: Millions of Families Face Losing Their Homes to Foreclosure
  • In Debt We Trust: America Before the Bubble Burst
  • Imprisoned Journalist Josh Wolf Released After Record 225 Days in Jail
  • Beyond Vietnam: 40th Anniversary of King's Landmark Antiwar Speech

audio Chef Leah Chase, on rebuilding Dooky Chase's Restaurant, and the Lafitte Housing Development Across the Street
Two anchors in the Treme neighborhood are about to re-open for business. Willie Mae’s Scotch House, and Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, have been landmarks in the cultural geography of New Orleans for more than half a century.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House was open for two days earlier this week to celebrate the completion of a year and a half of rebuilding efforts by Oxford, Mississippi chef John Currence, and volunteers from around the country. For fifty years, 89-year-old Mrs. Willie Mae Seaton has cooked what might be the best fried chicken in the country. Just months before Hurricane Katrina, Mrs. Seaton was recognized for her contribution to America’s culinary heritage with the most distinguished prize a chef could hope for in the United States, The James Beard Foundation award. Her medal was one of the last things she grabbed before she evacuated from New Orleans, and before her Treme home and restaurant was claimed by four feet of floodwater. A Joe York documentary on the rebuilding of Willie Mae’s premiered at The Republic this past Sunday. Willie Mae’s is planning to re-open for regular business (possibly) as early as next week.

Just around the corner from Willie Mae’s, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was in business for over 60 years before it, too, was claimed by floodwater. Renovations continue, but a patron party was held this past Holy Thursday to thank everyone who’s supported Mr. Edgar “Dooky” Chase, and Mrs. Leah Chase, in rebuilding one of the most celebrated restaurants in the nation. The Dooky Chase Holy Thursday tradition of serving Gumbo Z’Herbes returned, and for dessert, a melt-in-your-mouth bread pudding with whiskey sauce was served. The party was attended by some of the best chefs in the city, as well as dignitaries like Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu. Mr. Chase said that rebuilding the restaurant has been difficult, but the patron party was a welcome way to forget about those challenges. He hopes the restaurant will re-open for regular business by around the middle of May.

Dooky Chase’s restaurant is located directly across the street from the Lafitte Housing Development. Establishing the restaurant in the late 1930’s, the Chase family have a perspective on their neighborhood which predates the building of the Lafitte development just a few years later.

In October of last year, Chef Leah Chase shared her thoughts about the changes in the neighborhood in a fascinating conversation.


Before Hurricane Katrina, about 5,100 families in the 1940’s-era public housing complexes operated jointly by the Housing Authority of New Orleans and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Since the storm, about 1,250 families have returned to units in the Iberville, Guste, Fischer and Cooper developments. HANO has repaired 2,000 apartments in all, and claims that about 200 families are on their way back to the city to settle into some of the 542 units now ready for occupancy.

Nonprofit developers recently signed a contract to redevelop Lafitte, where 850 families lived before Katrina. Providence Community Housing, part of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Enterprise Community Partners plan a sweeping renovation of Lafitte and the surrounding neighborhoods of Treme, and Tulane and Gravier.

HANO & HUD say that it has adequately served the housing needs of former residents with vouchers and the Section 8 program, but residents say they were removed from their apartments almost 19 months ago because the housing agencies want to end public housing.

HANO closed the St. Bernard, Lafitte, C.J. Peete and B.W. Cooper complexes after the post-hurricane levee failures. Late last year,it reopened some apartments at B.W. Cooper, although the Cooper project is still slated for demolition.

Although the minimum rent is $25, many families were paying up to $300 a month for rent. The average public housing rent paid was $85 a month, with all utilities paid.


NPR, Leah Chase's "Gumbo Z'Herbes" recipe, a Holy Thursday tradition.

Leah Chase's Old Style Greens and "Pot Likker"

Leah Chase Biography.

PGR -- The fried chicken that saved New Orleans

Gwen Filosa, "Public housing trial set for November," The Times-Picayune, 3/28/07.

Gwen Filosa, "HANO picks rehab teams," The Times-Picayune, 3/29/07.

audio Bill Quigley: Public Housing, the Right to Return, and MLK (re-broadcast)
Bill Quiqley, an attorney at the Loyola Poverty Law Center, was present to support the reoccupation of the St. Bernard Housing Development on MLK Day this past January. The occupants were later forced out by a law enforcement raid. In this interview, Quigley talks about the right of residents to return to public housing, social justice, and how Washington's preoccupation with stabilizing Iraq is de-stabilizing New Orleans.

Music Played:
Mississippi John Hurt, Rediscovered, Vanguard, 1998:
"Nearer My God to Thee"
"Shortnin' Bread"
"Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor"

Charlie Miller, "Prayer for New Orleans" Our New Orleans 2005, Nonesuch, 2005.

Joe Callicott, "Frankie and Albert," Ain't a Gonna' Lie to You, Fat Possum, 2003.


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