Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In Queso Fever: The Spread of Cheese Dip

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 11:25 AM

The original cheese dip at Stoby's in Conway, Ark.
  • foodspotting.com
  • The original cheese dip at Stoby's in Conway, Ark.
Bitester Nicki Wood pointed me in the direction of this short documentary, In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip a couple of weeks ago (though it was produced several years ago). When I posted about it on my blog’s Facebook page, she made the startling revelation that she had never experienced cheese dip until college in Dallas. What? How was that possible? I mean, cheese dip has just always been around. Everywhere! Hasn’t it?

According to the documentary, notsomuch. It’s largely a regional phenomenon that’s strongest at its epicenter in Little Rock (!!!) but has spread its way from there, particularly with the rise in popularity/ubiquity of Tex-Mex restaurants. Where I grew up in Memphis, you just did not have a party — no matter how chi-chi — without Ro*Tel (cheese dip). In fact, I thought Ro*Tel was just a name for spicy cheese dip until my teen years when I discovered that it was the brand of canned diced tomatoes and chilis added to Velveeta to get the ultimate party cheese dip.

Also, Memphis-area Tex-Mex restaurant chain Pancho’s produced and sold its cheese dip (along with Tropicale dressing and salsas) through local grocery stores. It was always a suitable substitute for Ro*Tel at a gathering. You can still find it in the refrigerator of most any good Memphian at any given time. I buy Pancho’s dip every time I go back home to visit. I’ve even brought some back upon request for commenter/blogger loveandnachos, who also became a fan of Pancho's while dating a Memphian in college. I've also introduced it to my husband, who can now clear out a container like a Memphian. But he likes it heated. No. That's not how you do it.

For more about Pancho's (and a recipe for the Tropicale dressing), check out this post from a couple of years ago on my site. In the meantime, did you grow up with cheese dip? Did they have it in Kentucky? Alabama? Is it some kind of Delta poutine? I just can't imagine a childhood without it. By the way, it's really good on fries.

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