New Year's with Chapel Hill's iconic 'Mama Dip'

John Clark Image
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Iconic Chapel Hill restaurant Mama Dip's is located at 408 W. Rosemary St.

Forget Christmas. At Mama Dip's Kitchen in Chapel Hill, it's all about New Year's.

"We've got it in there now, what people want for New Year's," says Mildred "Mama Dip" Council, the founder and iconic cook of the restaurant back in early December. Council, still sharp and keen-eyed at age 85, says she started cleaning the chitterlings ("chitlins") for the holiday at the start of the month. For the uninitiated, chitterlings are the cooked small intestines of a pig. Considered a soul food specialty, some folks wouldn't start the new year without them.

"That's our biggest day," Council says.

Mama Dip's Kitchen has been a W. Rosemary Street landmark since 1976. Council began cooking at age 13 - first as a family necessity, then for the sheer love of it. The Chatham County native has published two cookbooks and has showcased her southern cooking on several national TV cooking shows. Her face adorns jars souvenir aprons and tee-shirts, jars of barbecue sauce and poppy seed dressing, and packages of cornbread mix.

And when Jan. 1 rolls around, it's always a busy time at her namesake eatery, where the "traditional" New Year's Day meal is served in abundance.

"We serve hog jowls, pork, black eyed peas, and greens." And, of course, those chitterlings.

Mama Dip's staff get ready for New Year's nearly a month ahead of the big day.

Asked why she thinks these particular foods have become New Year's staples, she thinks it may have something to do with some of them harvesting late in the season. However the traditions started, many folks believe eating those traditional foods will bring good luck.

"Yes," Council says laughing, "All of 'em do!' They certainly have been lucky for Mama Dip's cash register, and should be once again come next Jan. 1.

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