Monday, June 15, 2009

Mama Dip's

A slow and steady drizzle fell down upon Rosemary Street. The lingering chill of winter in late spring’s breeze had subsided making way for the foul breath of summer’s humidity that was only days away.

But people could worry about that then, for now we all just tried to stay dry.

For locals, a spring shower was nothing more than a weekly occurrence which none would look upon with similar romanticism. But having spent the last decade in a state that rarely gets rain, this shower was something of a nostalgic big deal for me. That being said, when my car door opened I sprinted like Usain Bolt to the front porch of Dips restaurant.

I can’t with all certainty say if I was racing to the shelter of the wrap around porch or if I was just simply that eager to eat Mama Dip’s traditional country cooking. Regardless, I made it in record time.

Mama Dip has been fixing food for the folks of Chapel Hill since November 1976. And today was no different. There she was, all six-plus-feet of her, leaning against the kitchen wall and surveying the scene, all the while being interrupted by comments from full and happy customers on their way back to work where they would almost certainly close their doors and fall asleep to the sound of rain pelting down on aluminum a/c units outside their office windows.

After opening a menu, I decided I wanted it all. Luckily, my mother was with me, so between our two orders we got a chance to taste almost all of it (and I knew she would insist on picking up the tab).

We started out with an order of fried green tomatoes. Three thick slices of green tomatoes were fried to a golden brown perfection and served with a side of creamy ranch dressing. Although I had a whole heaping of food yet to come, I believe I would have been satisfied had they told me I was getting nothing else.

But they never told me that.

And because they didn’t, they continued to bring out more food. A basket of hush puppies was immediately followed by our meals. I was having the 3-piece fried chicken dinner. However, our server informed us that Mama Dip had deemed my three pieces too small and added a fourth to my plate. That was good, because I would most certainly need a fourth piece of chicken after finishing up my mess o' greens, gooey mac and cheese, flaky buttermilk biscuit and inevitably the majority of my mother’s BBQ sandwich and her trough of Brunswick stew which I knew she would certainly fill up on before even nearing completion.

Sure, that fourth piece of chicken was necessary.

I ate it.

All of it.

I was so stuffed that food was backing up in my throat simply because my stomach had reached capacity and there was nowhere else for it to go. This was a shame because I longed for a nice slice of pecan pie to top things off.

But pie wasn’t happening today. And that was okay, because I would soon be boarding an airplane for a ride across the continent where I would be in for a five hour nap with all the joy that comes from having a belly full of good ol’ southern cookin’.

Here's a recipe for fried green tomatoes. While they probably won't be as good as the ones Mama Dip is frying up, they sure can't be bad.


2/3 c all-purpose flour
salt & pepper
3 lbs green tomatoes, cut into 1/2" slices
Oil for frying

In pie plate, combine flour, salt, and pepper. Dip in tomato slices to coat both sides. In 12 inch skillet over medium heat, heat 1/4 cup oil. Fry slices, a few at a time, until golden on both sides and heated through. Drain on paper towels. Repeat, adding more oil as needed.

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