Nobody appreciates Arkansas, and that’s probably truer with food than anything else: it’s right near Texas and Louisiana (both extremely famous in different food sub-categories), and it doesn’t even have an official state food. But around this time of year every year, the U.S. football-watching, friend-bonding, couch-ass-imprinting community should throw up a timely nod (and pour out some of that 60 calorie lager on your fine rug) for Arkansas: the state gave us the idea of ‘cheese dip,’ which is one of the most searched-for things in the U.S. around the Super Bowl. (Chicken wings are really the centerpiece; Americans might consume 1.25 billion this Sunday.)
It all began in 1935 in central Arkansas — a restaurant owner named Blackie Donnelly, a Mexican immigrant, started serving the concoction (actually devised by his wife) at their joint, Mexico Chiquita. It’s detailed in this documentary, Queso Fever.
Because of Arkansas’ now deep and abiding cultural love for cheese dip — “it goes way beyond Velveeta and Rotel here,” they will tell you — the World Cheese Dip Championships are now held in Little Rock annually:
The event skipped 2013, but it’s coming back in October 2014 — at the Clinton Library!
So as you’re watching Peyton Manning and Marshawn Lynch this Sunday, look quickly at a U.S. map and nod approvingly at Arkansas — that’s the state where this cheesy, dip-tastic bounty truly originated.
If you navigated to this page looking for recipes, I don’t want to let you down. Here’s one good one:
If you want to mix it up a little — Blackie Donnelly is deceased now, so he wouldn’t be offended directly — Trisha Yearwood has a “Charleston Cheese Dip” that’s pretty interesting:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 dash cayenne pepper
8 butter crackers, crushed, such as Ritz
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Corn chips, crackers or bagel chips, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, green onions and cayenne pepper. Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish, such as a 9-inch pie pan. Top the mixture with the cracker crumbs and bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and top with the bacon. Serve immediately with corn chips, crackers or bagel chips.
I wouldn’t per se classify that as healthy, but just try to get to the gym for an hour or so during pre-game hype.
And here’s the recipe for the original 1935 classic:
- 1 stick of butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- a dash of salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1 pound Kraft American cheese (the real kind), cut into cubes
How to make it
- Melt butter in a saucepan. Add flour and stir around until flour loses its raw taste, about 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients including the milk.
- Then add the cheese.
- Stir until cheese is melted.
- Serve with tortilla chips.
Enjoy, y’all. If you want to tie Arkansas and cheese dip back to the game, remember this: Bret Bielama coached both Russell Wilson and Montee Ball at Wisconsin; now he’s the head coach of the University of Arkansas. It all comes back to the Natural State.