Mama Dip (seated left) and her family: (seated) Sandra and Spring; (standing from left to right) Annette Tonya Joe and Stefanie
"We were dirt poor but didn't know it. Poor meant skinny in size, not economic. It was about survival--growing up, we had no notion of poverty. That's modern. We had pretty dresses when we went to church," she says. "I feel rich today, and when I hear people come to me and complain about their life or so and so who makes their life miserable, I say to them, ?You got shoes on your feet? You got food to eat? Then what are you complaining about?' " Mama sits back and rocks, full sunlight warming her skin and brightening her eyes. It's almost lunchtime, and the dining room has filled with regular customers waiting for a kind word from Mama, a nod of complicity, and reassurance that home will always be here, at her table.
Associate Foods Editor Mary Allen Perry has always loved Mama Dip's ability to render great flavors from simple and good ingredients. For this story, Mary Allen tested and adapted some of Mama's favorites from her book, Mama Dip's Kitchen (UNC Press). Visit her Web site at www.mamadips.com.
"Down Home and Delicious" is from the January 2005 issue of Southern Living.