Near the conclusion of Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening (1899), Edna Pontellier dines contentedly at a New Orleans café:

There was a garden out in the suburbs; a small, leafy corner, with a few green tables under the orange trees. An old cat slept all day on the stone step in the sun, and an old mulatresse slept her idle hours away in her chair at the open window, till someone happened to knock on one of the green tables. She had milk and cream cheese to sell, and bread and butter. There was no one who could make such excellent coffee or fry a chicken so golden brown as she.1

Edna is absent from this brief scene that appears at an important juncture in the novel. Instead, Chopin focuses on Catiche, the proprietor and cook at a particular New Orleans café. Catiche is described impressionistically: her gender, race,...

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