We take a moment to pay homage to this Southern culinary giant.
The South lost another culinary great this past weekend. Mildred Council, AKA Mama Dip, died Sunday at age 89. She was a towering figure—figuratively and literally—on America’s culinary landscape.
The story goes that Mildred Council was nicknamed “Mama Dip” in her youth due to her tremendous height. Council was over six feet tall and would have to “dip” over to get water out of the water barrel. The nickname stuck, but Council’s name was one that Southern foodies have come to know and revere for generations.
She was a celebrated cookbook author, restaurant owner and community leader.
Patron’s of Mama Dip’s Kitchen in Chapel Hill, North Carolina are a loyal, regulars type crowd. They come for the always reliable, fill the belly, comfort cooking. The menu includes staples like fried chicken livers, corn pudding, stewed tomatoes and chicken and dumplings. All recipes are from the heart and the memory of Mama Dip’s childhood, as she told Southern Living back in 2005.
And in the same no fuss way our grandmothers brush off the notion that they may possess magical skills in the kitchen, she told us back then, "Nobody taught me to cook. I just wanted to do it. And that's all it takes," she said.
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But of course there was more to her life and career than wanting to cook. She saw past just the food on the plate and that cooking for others provide the perfect ingredients for a caring and understanding community. As her youngest daughter told usin that same 2005 visit “Mama’s a real activist… She even started her own version of Meals-On-Wheels in the 1970s--delivering hot packaged dinners around the neighborhood to the housebound, to those who couldn't afford electricity, and to kids who had no adult supervision."
Council seemed to understand her purpose as more than just a cook. “People come to my restaurant to fight loneliness.” She always made a point to get to know the people who chose to dine with her.
Mama Dip leaves us with her recipes in cookbooks, a better understanding of one another through food, and for those who had the chance to taste it, happy memories of full bellies.