Saving Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Five years have now passed since Hurricane Katrina reeked havoc on the Gulf Coast.  Unlike the Katrina areas in Mississippi and Alabama, much of the devastation of New Orleans was man made.  Not just the violence of the marauding gangs who weathered the storm just so they could live in a city without law, but the flooding itself.

You see the Army Corps of Engineers built a temporary levee system to protect the city of New Orleans.  They told the city and the state that they needed to begin work on permanent levees.  That was 1965.  In the years since the federal government has funneled tens of millions of dollars to state and local governments intended for the construction of the hurricane-proof levees the city needed.  Every penny of the funding was squandered, most of it simply diapered.

Though scores of politicians played apart over the decades, some of the government officials responsible for the misappropriated funds were in power when Katrina hit including Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.  Both of whom were lackluster about evacuating the city before the storm.  Mayor Nagin even encouraged people to ignore the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's mandatory evacuation order.  That is until the storm was less than 24 hours out but by then it was too late for many.  To this day I do not know why Nagin has not been charged with two thousand sum odd counts of man slaughter.  After the storm, the national media wasted no time blaming the federal government for Blanco's and Nagin's ineptitude.

New Orleans, Biloxi and most of the Third Coast affected by Katrina have been slowly rebuilding, most of the work done by volunteers who refused to let the area die.  That is a testament to the people of the Gulf States.  They simply will not let New Orleans become another Detroit.

Most of the people effected by Nagin and Blanco's treachery were good people.  People like 94 year old Willie Mae Seaton who has run one of the nation's legendary soul food kitchens, Willie Mae’s Scotch House in the 7th Ward. The Scotch House has a colorful past and has endured many ups and downs but none as daunting as rebuilding after Katrina.  But a lady as beloved as Willie Mae has a lot of friends, many of whom she had never met.  Chefs, food writers and people of all walks of life came together to help her rebuild.

John T. Edge and the Southern Foodway Alliance shot a documentary to chronicle the effort that I encourage to you to watch below:

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