Favorite

Little Rock's essence? It's cheese dip 

My first wife, and this was long ago because we married much too young and split predictably and quickly, brought to our otherwise ill-advised union a recipe for cheese dip.

It tasted much like the classic signature dish of Little Rock's Mexico Chiquito restaurant, which, I am now told, may well qualify as the world's original cheese dip.

Little Rock's culinary culture may be defined not by catfish or barbecue or the plate lunch, but by cheese melted with peppers and spices.

Anyway, my childhood sweetheart departed for unknown points west and I lost the recipe.

I've spent four decades, nearly, trying to duplicate it. I know all the ingredients. I know the process. I just don't know the amounts — of cumin, chili powder, paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, ketchup and ... well,

I'm telling too much.

I can get mighty close. It's tasty nearly every time, unless I get it a tad floury.

You need a double-boiler. You make kind of a roux. You top it off with jalapeno peppers.

One trick is getting the heat just right for the next application.

And it is a common misconception that you must use Velveeta. A block of Kraft Deluxe American Cheese, shredded, does the melting and absorption trick better than Velveeta.

You can't really shred Velveeta, its being such a processed glob. The best thing to do with Velveeta is to compress it into a little ball and throw it at somebody.

You wondering where I'm going with this. So I'll tell you.

I'm going on October 9 to Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock to the first annual world championship cheese dip contest, underwritten by Kraft Velveeta and Ro*Tel, the classic combination for quick-and-easy cheese dip.

I don't so much care for it, having been exposed to the greater virtue of Mexico Chiquito's and a home-cooked imitation.

I don't intend to enter. I simply want to revel in this historic celebration.

What happened was that I ventured out the other evening to the 4th annual Little Rock Film Festival for a showing of short Arkansas-made documentary films, one of which — titled "In Queso Fever: A Movie about Cheese Dip," was young lawyer Nick Rogers' 31-minute exploration.

He'd grown up in Little Rock absorbed in cheese dip, then ventured elsewhere in the country to learn, as many of us have learned, that this culinary icon was much harder to find the further you got from his hometown.

His research led him to assert, until someone proves otherwise, that the first commercial cheese dip ever concocted and served took place in the early 1930s at a dirt-floored Mexican establishment in Prothro Junction called Mexico Chiquito.

What apparently happened after that was that Little Rockians, addicted to this stuff, came to believe that cheese dip was a Mexican staple, and newcomers to the Little Rock Mexican restaurant scene were obliged to offer the dish.

But it's not really Mexican. It's not actually Tex-Mex. It's Ark-Mex. To be more precise: It's more a Little Rock thing than an Arkansas thing.

Nachos, chips slathered in cheese sauce, came along much later, in the 1940s.

So Rogers' movie research led him to the headquarters of Kraft and Ro*Tel, which, prompted by his queries, decided to promote the joint use of their products by favoring him with seed money to throw this first world cheese dip contest right here on the Arkansas River.

There'll be cheese dip judging, salsa tasting, chip-making, live music, festival-styled exhibits and the Arkansas-Texas A&M football game blazed on the ballpark's big screen.

It could become — and should become — the quintessential Arkansas event.

By the way: Rogers' movie is very nearly stolen by editor Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times. He has a certain exuberant eloquence when it comes to food and he applies it here in a near-poetic description of the act of plunging the sturdy scoop-shaped Frito chip into a dense cheesy substance.

For more about the movie and the festival, just go, of course, to cheesedip.net.

I should mention that any cheese dip contest proceeds will go to an organization sponsoring free health services for poor people.

Favorite

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by John Brummett

  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • Can we talk? Can we get anywhere?

    Dialogue is good. It would be even better if someone would venture off script every once in a while.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in John Brummett

  • Gone to the DoG

    We're now longer carrying John Brummett's column in this space.
    • Oct 12, 2011
  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Fake economics

    • TP, what do you suggest are the significant differences between Reaganomics and Brownbackomics? In contrast,…

    • on December 4, 2016
  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • Rabid and ADRKE, Agreed. We should not focus on controversial issues, and Arkansas' platform on…

    • on December 4, 2016
  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Best column you have written, finally. Usually I don't make it to the end, but…

    • on December 4, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation