NEW ORLEANS -- The rain didn't stop people from packing into Dooky Chase's on Orleans Avenue to get a Holy Thursday tradition; Gumbo Z'herbes.
Gumbo Z'herbes is the only thing the restaurant serves that day, except fried chicken.
"Only on Holy Thursday," said Chef Leah Chase, the 93-year-old matriarch of the Creole institution. "I'm not grinding any greens on any other day. No indeed."
The history of the dish, and the way Chase prepares it, is rooted in the predominantly Catholic history of the city.
"The Catholics on Holy Thursday, that was their last meat day before Good Friday," she explained. "Lent was over at noon on Saturday, so you had to do without until then. So Thursday was like the last supper."
Chase even adds a little superstition to her recipe.
"You have to have uneven numbers; even numbers are bad luck," she said. "So I use nine different greens in mine."
Though her gumbo is a tradition, you won't find the usual flour-based roux here.
"I make gumbo just like all the old Creoles made it," she explained. "I make the file' just like all of them made it. You grind the greens. Then you just put all the meat you can find. We put chicken, ham, we put veal stew. We put two kinds of sausage, all of that in there. Now the veal stew always got to me because it gives no flavor, but I think Creoles like a lot of meat."
Judging by the lines of people waiting to taste it every year, everyone else likes a lot of meat, too.
"Last Holy Thursday we fed over 600 people, this year we've got like 700 coming," she said.
Chase's walker doesn't keep her from getting around the kitchen, and she said she'll keep cooking as long as she can.
"For me, it's most important because I like people," Chase said. "It gives me the opportunity to make a lot of people happy, and I'm happy."