Sometimes, for all the bloviating that goes on in the blogosphere, interesting, provocative stories still go relatively unnoticed. It happened last week when Kim Severson reported on the meal President Bush had in New Orleans at Dooky Chase, the legendary Creole restaurant run by Leah Chase, the 84-year-old "Queen of Creole Cuisine." According to Severson, some people in New Orleans and out took Chase to task for hosting the president for dinner and a photo op. Her crime: By agreeing to host the president, Chase was seen as somehow legitimizing and sanctioning the Bush administration's feeble efforts to rebuild New Orleans.
Was it exploitative and disingenuous for Bush to have some gumbo and a photo op at Chase's restaurant, given that, according to Severson, Chase is still living in a FEMA trailer in a virtually abandoned section of the Treme neighborhood two years after Katrina hit and still hasn't reopened her restaurant? Of course it was. But exploitation and disingenuousness are built into every politician's actions, Republican, Democrat, or independent. If Chase had a dollar every time a politician of either party said or did something exploitative and disingenuous when it comes to post-Katrina New Orleans, she would have enough money to open restaurants all across the country or retire in style. Bush used Chase, and, with any luck, Chase used Bush to help get her restaurant open and her neighbors back.
Who showed dignity and class in this interaction, a transparent George W. Bush or the classy-against-all-odds, generously spirited Leah Chase, who was quoted as saying, "If I had neighbors, they'd be so surprised because they never had a president come through"? Severson reported; you decide.
Instead of taking Chase to task for serving George W. Bush some grace, humility, and gumbo, folks should head down to New Orleans, eat at Dooky Chase (if in fact the restaurant is open), have some incomparably delicious fried chicken at Chase's neighbor's restaurant, Willie Mae's Scotch House, go hear some real, honest New Orleans music at the Maple Leaf Bar, and savor the rich cultural bounty of America's most interesting (and certainly its most complicated) city.
Address: 2301 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans LA 70119
Willie Mae's Scotch House
Address: 2401 Saint Anne Street, New Orleans LA 70119
Maple Leaf Bar
Address: 8316 Oak Street, New Orleans LA 70118
Phone: 504-866-9359 or 504-866-5323 for recorded info