Tributes have poured in for Leah Chase, a New Orleans chef who played a leading role in the Civil Rights movement, and who died last week. As some sources noted, Catholicism played a crucial role in her life.
Born in 1923, Chase and her husband, Dooky, set up a restaurant that became famous for its Creole cuisine – a style which blends American influences with those of Europe, Haiti, West Africa and others. The Dooky Chase restaurant became one of the major hubs for Civil Rights activists. Political meetings were held there, and because of the popularity of Chase’s food the police didn’t dare intervene.
But the “Queen of Creole Cooking”, who inspired the character of Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, had another side, too: a Catholic, she delighted in explaining the origins of feast days, opposed abortion and believed in modesty in women’s dress.
She once told Stop Smiling magazine that she had suffered doubts over her chosen path: “I told my friend, who is a priest, that I was afraid to die,” Chase recounted. “I told him I was afraid I wasn’t doing everything right.
“He said, ‘You’re doing everything right. Don’t you know Jesus liked to eat?’ After that, I started to pay attention. He did like to eat. It seemed like before he did anything, he sat down for supper.”
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