Originally posted by the New York Times
Mildred Council, a slave’s granddaughter who opened a North Carolina restaurant that proved so successful she caught the attention of presidents, publishers and sports stars, died on May 20 in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 89.
The cause was complications of a stroke, her daughter, Spring Council, said.
Most people called Mrs. Council Mama Dip, a variation on Dip, the nickname she acquired while growing up on a sharecropper’s farm. Mildred was such a tall youngster — she grew to 6 feet 2 inches — that she could reach her long arm down to the bottom of a rain barrel and dip out a drink when the family well went dry.
Michael Jordan and James Worthy also picked up on the nickname and spread it when they were playing basketball for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1980s; they were frequent visitors to her restaurant in town, at the time an 18-seat diner called Dip’s Kitchen.
The name Mama Dip went on to become a brand. Besides a restaurant, now known as Mama Dip’s, it graced cookbooks and a line of food products, including a cornbread mix and barbecue sauce.
Mrs. Council called her approach in the kitchen “dump-cooking.” She never used recipes, she explained; instead, she measured flour with the palm of her hand and then dumped in seasonings and other ingredients until a dish tasted right.